What’s for supper? Vol. 288: Paneer, and yet so far

I do believe I’ve picked up some new readers! Welcome. Also welcome to a few people who are fasting and praying for my conversion, what the heck. To everyone who’s here for whatever reason, I usually do a Friday food round-up, with photos and recipes of the meals we cooked for our large family for the week. Except I didn’t get around to it yesterday, or last Friday. So here’s a little catching up:

Oh, but first, there was the Friday before that! I was threatening to make those San Francisco Vietnamese garlic noodles from the NYT. A few friends warned me they were rather bland, despite the garlic — kind of a lot of garlic, if you’re tripling the recipe —

 oyster sauce, and fish sauce, so I decreased the amount of pasta and increased the sauce ingredients, and I thought it was tasty. (I also used asiago rather than parmesan, because they are both triangles and I can’t read.) A nice combination of savory and creamy with a tiny bite, not overpowering, but a little off the beaten path.

It didn’t knock my socks off, but I’ll probably make it again, as I usually have these ingredients in my house. And sometime when it’s not Lent, I’ll add caviar as suggested, or maybe scallops.

We also had our Italian feast for St. Joseph’s day with a nice antipasto of whatever wasn’t too expensive at Aldi, and whatever hadn’t expired in the back of my cabinet:

Looks like some fresh mozzarella, some various salamis and other cured meats, pickled vegetables, and tomatoes. I think there were some pickled hot peppers with some kind of cheese filling. And cantaloupe. If you ever had a job prepping breakfast in a hotel while you were pregnant, and the smell of rotten cantaloupe was the most miserable thing you ever inhaled, and you were wondering how many years it would take you to get over it and enjoy cantaloupe again, the answer seems to be [feverish calculations] twenty-five. 

So Damien made spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread, Lucy made suppli, or arancini (breaded fried risotto balls with melted mozzarella in the center)

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and Clara made zeppole. Must hunt down her recipe, because they were fab.

And I just sat there and ate. Buona Festa, San Giuseppe!

Looks like that week we also had a pretty chicken salad with toasted almonds, strawberries, and croutons that I did NOT BURN FOR ONCE

That would be mixed greens, grilled chicken breast, fresh strawberries, feta cheese, diced red onion, and toasted almonds, and croutons made of stale hot dog buns, with red wine vinegar.

(And here’s my periodic reminder that the easiest way to toast nuts, to make them crunchy and bring out their flavor, but not to burn them, is to spread them on a plate and microwave them for a few minutes. You can do it in the oven, but there’s no real advantage, and they’re very easy to burn.)

. . . and it looks like I finally got around to putting fennel on a pizza, like I’ve been threatening to do for some time. This one had fennel, fresh garlic, anchovies, feta, fresh parmesan, and artichoke hearts.

What a stupendous pizza. I sliced the fennel in rings, which I feel isn’t quite right, but it tasted great. No ragrets.

Ooh, then on Friday, it was the Annunciation, which is a meat Friday in Lent, so we had roast beef sandwiches with provolone and horseradish sauce on toasted buns,

and a side of caprese salad, which is always nice. 

The roast beef, Damien made by crusting it with I think salt and pepper and garlic powder and searing it in olive oil with lots of garlic cloves, and then roasting it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and then he starts checking it. He lets it rest for a while before slicing it. 

The caprese salad is just fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, freshly ground salt and pepper. I didn’t bother reducing anything.

Okay! Caught up. Now for the week we just finished:

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas

Nothing to report. Chicken, cheddar cheese, jalapeños in the quesadillas, salsa and sour cream on the side. 

I do remember that I went shopping and had made up my mind that I was finally going to buy one of those giant smoked turkeys they had at Aldi, that I had been thinking about for several weeks, and that I had planned at least two meals around it. Got there and . . . they were just regular frozen turkeys. Note even a good price. I tried to persuade myself that I wanted to do  Thanksgiving in the middle of the week in March, but it turns out I very much did not. So I wung it. 

MONDAY
Ham, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, salad, rolls

Meal number 1 that I wung: A “join us for dinner in the church basement”-style dinner. Nothing wrong with that! I did not make an ambrosia salad, however, because that’s an abomination. 

My only tip is that, if you’re not planning to glaze the ham or stick pineapples to it or anything, you can slice it ahead of time and then heat it up, and it makes an easy meal even easier. 

Oh, here’s my recipe for garlic parmesan mashed potatoes. I made five pounds and warned everyone not to go nuts, because there were only five pounds, and they acted like it was death camp rations. That is nearly half a pound of potato per person, not counting the butter, milk, and parmesan! I guess we burn all those extra calories by making an ungodly fuss about everything all the time. 

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TUESDAY
Gochujang pork chops, sesame broccoli, rice

Now this was a tasty meal with minimal effort. I started the pork chops marinating in the morning with this sauce

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made of gochujang, honey, sugar, garlic, and soy sauce. I heated up the broiler nice and hot and shoved the chops right under it, and turned them once. They were on the thin side, so I was careful not to overcook them. 

I also love using this marinade on pork ribs and giving them to Damien to cook outside, but the chops turned out great. (It’s also wonderful for gochujang bulgoki, when you include matchstick carrots, sliced onions, and slice the pork before marinating, and you serve it with nori. It’s really just a fine, fine marinade.)

I made a big batch of basmati rice in the Instant Pot, and a big tray of toothsome sesame broccoli

which there is a recipe for

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but it’s easy as can be. You just drizzle the broccoli spears with sesame oil and soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds, and send them for a short ride under a hot broiler to turn bright green with a tiny bit of char. 

Delicious meal, very easy, minimal cook time. 

WEDNESDAY
Bagels sandwiches with egg and cheese, choice of ham or sausage; OJ

Nothing to report. Well, I employed the very healthful method of frying the eggs in a truly ludicrous amount of butter, and not flipping them over, but cooking the tops by spooning melted butter repeatedly over the yolk, which causes the white to bubble up around the yolk and sort of support it, so you get a little film over the top of the yolk, but it’s still runny on the inside. 

THURSDAY
Nachos

This was the second meal (wait, third?) I planned on the fly, and Damien offered to make it while I was doing . . . something or other. Probably crying. It was an insane week with about 60% more meetings and driving and assignments and complications and drama than necessary. I cooked some ground beef with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, and he made one tray with just that, and one tray with that and also jalapeños, and leftover roast beef, and leftover chicken, and of course cheese. 

Maybe it was just the “somebody else made dinner” talking, but I thought it was delicious. 

FRIDAY
Saag paneer, naan

Well, this was a semi-tragic finale to an exhausting week. All week, I had been looking forward to trying this Instant Pot recipe (it also has stovetop instructions). I love Indian food, I love spinach, I love creamy things. I figured the kids wouldn’t like it, but they can go to hell, I mean make themselves toast. I did have an extremely busy schedule, but I got up and finished up some editing and sent off some articles and wrote some interview questions, then briskly set to work prepping all my saag paneer ingredients and making the dough for naan. 

Or, well, I was going to, but we were out of yogurt, and so was the only convenience store in town. So I zipped into the next town because I needed paneer, anyway. I was still sort of unclear about what paneer was, exactly. I made some inquiries, and learned that it is cottage cheese, sort of, but not really. And it has been a kind of trying week, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask social media a cheese question. I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So I went to the international market, and they had one kind of paneer, so that settled that. Bought two blocks and zipped home.  

I cooked the first part of the saag paneer with all the vegetables, and of course it smelled great

— and here I had a little larf to myself, because I experienced Spinach Panic, where you follow the directions for cooking a pound of spinach but it still seems like THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY BE RIGHT

but it is right, it’s just cooking with fresh spinach. Two minutes later, it was fine:

Did a little more work, went to adoration, went to pick up the kids from school, and then got back to finish up this meal, with the house already smelling most excellently. 

I open the Instant Pot top, and it’s going along great, and then I get up to the part where you add the little blocks of paneer. Which I did. And I waited for them to melt, and they did not. I stirred, I adjusted the heat, I pressed on them, I stirred some more, I did everything I could think of. They remained intact. 

Okay, if you’ve ever cooked with paneer, you know what the problem is: The problem is, I’m an idiot. Paneer is not supposed to melt. Because it’s . . . cottage cheese, sort of. And I would have known this, if I had asked social media, or . . . READ THE RECIPE. Which clearly states, “Add Paneer cubes and Garam Masala to it. And cook it further on saute mode for about 5 minutes. Your Palak Paneer is ready.”

Why did I think the paneer would melt? I have no idea. The recipe also included a photo of the finished dish, clearly showing the green puree with the white paneer cubes bobbing merrily around on top. This made no impression on me whatsoever. I was still angrily prodding the paneer with a wooden spoon, trying to force it to melt, because it is cheese!  So I finally poured the whole thing into the food processor and whirred it until it was all blended, and I put some more salt and garam masala and chili powder and lemon juice in, heated it up again, and that is what I served. 

It was actually really good. Very hearty, lots of flavor. Just . . . not really saag paneer.

The good(?) news is, I have a whole other block of paneer, and lots of leftover saag paneer with paneer blended up in it, so if I wanted to, I could make ultra paneer saag paneer! If I wanted to. Or I could just draw a veil over this whole episode and have my husband take me out for Chinese. 

Hey, the naan turned out great. It was tender and pleasant to eat. I made 32 pieces, which is kind of a miracle, considering I was frying it one piece at a time at the end of the day at the end of the week while having a mental breakdown over the fucking paneer. 

So, for the naan, I used this King Arthur recipe, which is nice and simple. It takes about an hour to rise, and then you just cut it up, let it rest, roll the pieces out, and fry them in a hot pan. I used the standing mixer to knead the dough and it turned out a little stickier than it was supposed to, so I used lots of flour when rolling the pieces out. I found it was helpful to keep a wet dishtowel by the stove to wipe out the burnt flour the accumulated in the the pan, in between frying. I tried both an iron frying pan, as the recipe called for, and a T-Fal double wall stainless steel frying pan, and didn’t notice any difference. 

This is a picture of last time I made naan. I have a new picture of the new naan, but I lost my phone. I can hear it dinging somewhere in my bed, but I can’t find it. 

And now we are all caught up. If you have any tips about cooking, please keep them to yourself, as my brain has completely smoothened over and is not accepting new information at this time, thank you. 

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

 

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.

 

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. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 284: Ghee! Your chicken smells terrific

Gotta quick get this food post in before Lent starts! It was February vacation this past week, and we were pretty busy doing this and that (especially that. OH, the that we did) including Corrie’s birthday party and my first foray into Indian cooking. Let’s begin!

SATURDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, chips

Damien made supper

while I did a gazillion errands, including checking out a wonderful little store in the area, Keene International Market. It’s not huge but it has an impressive variety of goods, including frozen foods and fresh produce. I had very little in the way of Southeast Asian spices in the house, so I stocked up

I actually made two trips, and the second time I got some saffron and coriander and I forget what else. Always wanted to buy saffron. 

Damien and I were both so excited about the Indian meal we had a few weeks ago. The first great thing about Indian food is, of course, how ridiculously delicious it is. The second great thing, though, is how excited Indian people get when you tell them you’re trying Indian cooking. What a delight! I got so much profuse encouragement and enthusiasm from so many people, including the cashier at the store. Lovely. 

I started marinating the chicken for the main dish, chicken biryani, on Saturday night. The marinade tasted pretty exciting, and we both thought that, if I just added more yogurt to dial down the intensity a little, it would make a fantastic dip. 

SUNDAY
Pakora with tamarind sauce, chicken biryani, naan

Okay. So I started out knowing this was going to be a learning curve. But even so, I had SO MUCH FUN cooking this food. I really took to it, and it felt very natural and enjoyable. That being said, nothing I made turned out exactly right, and some of it turned out . . . pretty wrong. The flavors were all great, but everything needed improvement of some kind or other. But we all liked it so much, I’m definitely going to try again. It was just a super fun meal to make and eat, and somehow seemed to produce family happiness. This may have been because I was so upbeat about it, and my good cheer rubbed off on the kids, but that does not automatically happen by any means, so I think it’s just Indian food magic. 

First, the pakora. I went a little bit rogue and just started stuffing all kinds of vegetables into the food processor. I used spinach, string beans, carrots, red onions, and cabbage.

I ended up chopping everything a little bit too fine, so I ended up with small, fluffy wads of fried vegetable, rather than spiky bundles. (You let it sit, squeeze out the excess liquid, mix it with spices and chickpea flour, and then deep fry it.) Just didn’t have enough substance.

But as I said, the flavor was great (I added salt, coriander, garam masala, and ginger paste), and I liked the tender, vegetable-y inside with the lightly crisp fried outside.  Next time, I will just cut everything more like matchsticks than shreds. 

Next, the naan. I planned to make this recipe, which my friend Tom recommended, but I started too late, so I defaulted to King Arthur. It calls for both regular flour and bread flour, and yogurt, but it’s quite simple, and I thought it turned out well enough, if a little tough. I forgot to brush ghee on at the end, and they definitely could have been more tender, but heck, they looked and tasted like naan, so, thumbs up, white girl! I made sixteen of them.

Where I really stumbled was the biryani. Here’s the recipe again. The chicken part came out divine. In this recipe, you start — well, first you start by marinating the chicken well in advance, as I mentioned above; but when you’re ready to cook, you start by by roasting a bunch of whole spices in ghee

then fry up some onions in it, then add in the chicken that’s been marinating in yogurt and a bunch of spices overnight, and let that cook for a while.

At this point, your house smells like heaven.

Then you add more yogurt and more spices, and then you have to spread your raw basmati rice, add the liquid, and cook the rice on top of the cooked chicken, with salted water and coconut cream infused with saffron and whatnot.

Here I got confused, and I ran out of room in the pot, and I started making substitutions and panicking a tiny bit, because I realized the rice was cooking very unevenly, so I transferred everything to the Instant Pot; but I still didn’t use enough liquid, so it started to burn, and it was just not gonna work out, so I just served it as it was. So the rice was rahther crunchy, which is a shame, because it was expensive!

But all those delightful ingredients and all that layering of flavor was not in vain, because the chicken and sauce part was so delicious that everybody ate the biryani anyway, crunchy basmati rice and all. It was just . . . creamy and fragrant and a little earthy and warming, with lots of layers of flavor. I dialed down the spiciness quite a bit to make it as accessible as possible, because it was already very different from what the kids are used to eating. It was not bland! Just not spicy. 

I also attempted to make some tamarind sauce using a slab of tamarind paste. I more or less followed this recipe, but it juuuuust didn’t turn into something I was excited about eating.

Damien liked it, but I thought it was too tart and too chunky, even after lots of extra honey and some time in the food processor. I’ll just buy a jar of readymade sauce next time, because I’m cuckoo for tamarind. I did buy some mango chutney and some mint chutney and we used all three sauces and just dipped everything in everything.

I believe that’s how you’re supposed to do it. 

Oh, and I also grabbed something called Soan cakes, 

which turned out to come sealed in little plastic cups like fruit cups, and they were so strange! They tasted somewhat like halvah, but sweeter and fruitier, and the texture was kind of . . . splintery? And it sort of melted in your mouth. Several of the kids mentioned that it was like they always imagined pink insulation tasting. 

MONDAY
Pizza

Homemade pizza, but nothing special, just a bunch of pepperoni and olive and whatnot. I was still kind of in a daze from all the cooking I had done on Sunday, and was drained of creativity. 

TUESDAY
Pork ribs, suppli

Lucy wanted to try her hand at making suppli, and after I warned her that it was a fairly complex recipe with several steps,

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especially if you’re planning to make the risotto on the stovetop and all, darn it if she didn’t go ahead and make the best suppli I’ve ever had. 

Look how lovely they turned out, outside:

and in:

Great savory, creamy risotto inside, and I did spring for some good fresh mozzarella, so that melted very well. 

For the meat, I threw some salt and pepper on some pork ribs and roasted them, and we just had the pork ribs and suppli for supper, that’s it. A slightly barbaric meal, somehow, but very tasty.  

WEDNESDAY
Chicken fajita bowls

I’m just going to go ahead and quote my Facebook status for the day:

Today after I got some writing done, I had to drop Benny off at her friend’s house and take Sophia for a haircut and pick up a few party things, so I decided to take Corrie with me for fun (????), and we got some groceries and I ran in for a final birthday present and we had to get some fireworks, and then I guess that was too many errands, because she got EXTREMELY ANGRY ABOUT HOW THE REVOLVING DOOR WAS BEHAVING, and had a bit of a meltdown. And this continued for several miles until I realized the shortcut I was taking brought up right past a farm, so we stopped to visit some horses and cows, which calmed Corrie down, but I myself leaned on the electric fence, which was not ideal! Then we picked up Benny and went home, and I got pulled over for various reasons, and made supper, and finally got my boots off, and I was reading to the girls when I heard Corrie quietly say, “oopth.” I turn around and she has . . . a mouth full of broken glass???? Because I guess she found a Christmas ornament and decided to put it in her mouth, and then accidentally bit it? Anyway nobody died and we finished the chapter, and I just

But oopth nothwithstanding, I was fairly proud of the dinner I got on the table, just in terms of sheer minutes-per-raw-food-to-hot-food-ness; and it was pretty tasty, too, if not luxe. I cut up some chicken breast with green peppers and onions and fried it up in oil with plenty of chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and — not cumin, because I used that all up in the Indian food. 

I set some rice cooking in the Instant Pot and heated up some black beans, chopped up some cilantro and scallions, and put out sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, lime wedges, salsa, hot sauce, and corn chips, and forty minutes after we got home, there was a happy little dinner ready. 

The only thing we didn’t have, besides cumin, was bowls. Nobody knows what happened to all the bowls. So we had chicken fajita plates. 

THURSDAY 
Pizza

Thursday was the day we All Got Out Of the House. We tried something new: The Fitchburg Art Museum, which is small but worth driving an hour to see. They have an immersive Ancient Egypt exhibit that was very effective and memorable. I made the kids pray for the mummies, because a dead old man is a dead old man, even if his organs are in a jar.  You can see some of my photos on Facebook. Then we went back to town and did some thrifting/antiquing and picked out some silly stuff (and the owner sized up Benny and Corrie and pointed out the giant basket full of used dance costumes, whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho!), and then, because it was vacation, we stayed out got pizza. 

FRIDAY
Calzones

Yes, after pizza on Monday and then pizza on Thursday, we had calzones on Friday, which was Corrie’s request for her birthday dinner. I ended up asking Elijah to make them

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while I finished making the cupcakes for her party on Saturday. She wanted cupcakes decorated with ancient Greek motifs, and filled with Nerds (just like our house, har har har). I sliced the cupcake tops off, used a vegetable peeler with a digging end to gouge out a little hole, poured the Nerds in, and stuck the top back on with icing. My hands have not gotten less shaky over the years, but she was happy with her cupcakes. 

Which is pretty remarkable, considering that she also asked Clara to make her a Greek god cookie birthday cake, so obviously Clara made her one. 

The cupcakes were for her party on Saturday, but the cake was just for the family on Friday.

I know you want to see those cookie gods close up, so here they are:

Everybody says “They are too beautiful to eat!” and that’s probably true, but we ate them anyway, because we are monsters! And Clara just keeps making more outstanding cookies, so we never learn.

Okay, that’s it! I usually keep doing food posts throughout Lent because, as previously discussed, I’m a monster. Happy Fat Monday!

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

What’s for supper? Vol. 281: Wellness with yogurt sauce

Another week, another vow to write more, another week in which I did not write more. It’s just that I only have a very few things to say, and those things are paralyzingly overwhelming, that’s all. Good thing there’s food! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Tacos, corn chips

Just regular tacos. Actually slightly irregular, because it was a pre-packaged seasoning kind of day, but all they had was fajita seasoning. They were fine.

I had cilantro and jarred salsa verde with mine, and they were fine, mild little tacos.

SUNDAY
Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s sauce, sausages, garlic bread

Damien made dinner again. Yummy.

I skipped the sausage either because I was virtuously counting and limiting calories and decided to forego sausage, or because I had already consumed a monstrous number of calories that day and didn’t deserve sausage, I forget which. I’ve been alternating all week, sometimes within the same day. Follow me for more wellness tip. Wellness bellness mellness shchmellness tips.

Anyhoo, this is the voice of your conscience telling you to try Marcella Hazan’s amazing three-ingredient red sauce already.

Jump to Recipe

Don’t get cute and start adding basil or anchovies or anything. Just do the recipe and be amazed.

MONDAY
Cuban sandwiches

Slowly working my way through meals that people have been begging for. Cuban sandwiches are supposed to be made on Cuban bread, which is made with lard. I just went with sourdough bread because these are gigantic, unwieldy sandwiches, and sourdough holds up well. 

The essential ingredients are: Pork, ham, pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard, and it’s grilled in butter. There are all kinds of scrumptious ways to prepare the pork, but I was in a hurry, so I just chunked a boneless loin in a pan in the oven with some cider vinegar and salt and pepper, covered it with tin foil, and cooked it at 325 for 40 minutes or so. 

Then, after I sliced it up and put it on the sandwich, I sprinkled each piece with cumin, oregano, and garlic powder, and more salt and pepper before frying. Kind of a backasswards way to do it, but sometimes I have to prep dinner in bits and pieces throughout the day, so that’s how it went. 

I made sure there was cheese on both sides of the sandwich, to glue it together, and used plenty of butter to grill it. And my dears, this is one tasty sandwich. 

TUESDAY
Chicken caesar salad

Another hurry-hurry day. Damien roasted the chicken. I shredded some fresh parmesan and made some croutons from stale hamburger buns, and then somewhat burned them, which was sad. Just bottled dressing. An okayish meal, but everyone was hungry, so that helped.

I do have a kickass recipe for caesar salad dressing, if you feel like making it from scratch, and you don’t care about doing it “the” “right” “way.”

Jump to Recipe

It tastes good to me, and a few teaspoons will wake your face head up. Last summer, I made it with local raw duck eggs and it was insane. 

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas ala leftovers

We had lots of taco/fajita meat left from taco/fajita night, plus chicken left from chicken caesar salad night, so I sliced up some cheddar cheese and away we went. I also chopped up some cilantro and opened a jar of jalapeños, and Benny went around taking orders. 

I had chicken, jalapeños, and cilantro in mine.

Nothing to report. I managed not to burn anything. There was one quesadilla that had some cheese that just wouldn’t melt. I fried and fried and fried it, but it just wouldn’t melt. I don’t know what the hell was up with that. I just thought I’d let you know. 

THURSDAY
Chicken shawarma, fried eggplant

For the first time in my life, I made chicken shawarma, and didn’t really feel like eating it. The reason was because I also made some fried eggplant, and could not pry myself away from the pan.

I tweaked the recipe a bit 

Jump to Recipe

so there is more batter coverage, it’s a tad spicier, and I increased both the water and the baking powder. They turned out SO GOOD.

A lovely crisp outside with a little bit of lofty batter inside, and the eggplant is almost creamy, with that thin sharp ribbon of skin, and a little shpronkle of kosher salt that nestles in the nooks and crannies, and then a very subtle spicy aftertaste. 

I ate some shawarma just for propriety’s sake, but I was totally in it for the eggplant. I didn’t even bother with any yogurt sauce (although I made plenty)

Jump to Recipe

I used to add red onions in with the chicken when I marinated it, but they got a little mushy, so I started holding them back until it was time to cook. This time I forgot to put them in, so I sprinkled them over the top of the chicken halfway through cooking it.

I am here to tell you it doesn’t matter. It’s all good. It’s shawarma. 

FRIDAY
Tuna boats and hot pretzels for the kids, supermarket sushi for adults

Gotta have some fun. 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

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
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 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. 

 

Fried eggplant

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

Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

veg oil for frying

3 cups flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3+ cups water
  • 1 Tbsp 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, scraping off excess if necessary, 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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 269: In which I push my luck

Happy Fribeday! Today’s edition includes several delightful foods I certainly did not cook myself, plus some rolls which no one but me could or would have made. And I am wined and dined and manage to complain about it. 

So, Saturday and Sunday and part of Monday, Damien and I were away at a little getaway for an early anniversary trip. 24 years, just about! We somewhat randomly decided to go to Canobie Lake Park Screeemfest, which means their normal amusement park with miscellaneous spooky decorations, plus some haunted houses and shows.

American Halloween is weird, man. It’s such a mishmash of different aesthetics. We both discovered that we don’t like haunted houses at all anymore. I honestly think I would have just gotten completely overwhelmed and not been able to find my way out, so Damien basically grabbed me and pulled me through as fast as possible, and then we sat on a bench for a while until I could stop saying, “My goodness.”  We did go on a bunch of normal rides, including bumper cars, my favorite ecstatic swings-on-chains one, and one that is the same as a washing machine spin cycle, except that, instead of the dirty water going out, it is your blood trying to escape. 

The first thing we did was eat, though, which may have been a tactical error, but I was starving! We both had a smoked brisket sandwich with jalapeños, coleslaw, and beer. Holy cow, it was delicious.

Can’t remember the name of the vendor, but they were set up near the flying rooster ride. I really must learn how to smoke brisket. We used to occasionally have brisket when I was growing up, but Jewish brisket is not the same as smoked brisket on a sandwich. I have no desire to recreate the occasional brisket of my childhood. 

We stayed at the park for a few hours until we began to feel too old, and then made our way to the hotel. We had requested a second night, but hadn’t heard back, so Damien called the front desk, who rather rudely told him to talk to Priceline, who had him wait for a long time before letting him know that they didn’t really know what was going on and he should talk to the hotel, who then informed him that the hotel was all booked up. I was a tiny bit relieved, and it smelled somewhat like wee in there, and I also had it in my head that there might be bedbugs (there weren’t). Damien then booked a room at a much nicer hotel at Hampton Beach for the second night with no problem. This becomes important later. I was a little nervy, with the imaginary bedbugs, and my blood trying to escape, and only slept a few hours, but we were still having fun! I brought orange juice. 

SUNDAY

We got up, went to Mass — well, went to what turned out to be the wrong church, and then launched ourselves to the right church only a few minutes late for Mass — and then proceeded to Newburyport, MA. We didn’t really have a plan, but it looked like a pretty town, so we stopped for lunch.

I quickly realized that it was an aggressively nice town. Half the roads were cobblestone, either original or put in just to be cute, it was hard to say. Absolutely adorable architecture, gift shops selling silver and crystals and mermaid everything everywhere, touristy to the max. A trans woman with long white hair and a long white dress playing a harp in the town commons, and every single damn dog I saw was in a stroller. I quietly renamed it Painintheass, MA in my head. Honestly, a really nice town, but just Too Too Much.  However, after I browsed around the shops and Damien got some work done at a café, we got a table at a lovely restaurant by the riverwalk, and had a magnificent brunch at Sea Level Oyster Bar

We had an order of fried calamari that included batter fried hot peppers, very nice

but the real star was the oysters. I have never had such wonderfully fresh, luscious, tasty oysters. There were three different kinds

and one of the accompaniments was a tart pineapple mignonette. Wowzers. 

I ordered something called Sluice Juice IPA from Bent Water beer. Terrible name, but a really wonderful beer, very citrusy and refreshing, with lots of different flavors. I don’t really like beer unless I’m eating, and this was the absolute perfect beer to go with seafood. 

 

The only non-chocolate dessert was apple pie in a jar, so I ordered that. It came with what must have been a sugared mermaid or fishtail crust garnish, but it looked more like antlers and didn’t taste like much. The rest was lovely, though, tart and fresh with plenty of whipped cream and a kind of streusel on the bottom. 

We had a seat near the water (I think it’s the Merrimack River), the service was fast and friendly, and I would absolutely go back to that very pleasant restaurant.

We spent a little time browsing the antique market (which requires vaccines and masks), and stopped at a Greek gift store, where I had spotted a blue icon sun catcher I wanted, and then got bullied into buying a quite expensive bottle of olive oil from Sparta. Yia Yia was very persuasive. She kept shouting at us, and there was something about her three grandchildren in heaven that she cooks for every night using that same oil. I swear I only had one beer, and that’s what she said. I narrowly avoided buying an entire can of the oil, which was $50. She also threw in some oregano. 

We eventually got back on the road and found ourselves in Seabrook, which has a nuclear power plant, but it turns out you can only see it in the summer. And then we got to Hampton Beach. 

Here’s the short version of what happened next: We had allegedly checked in online, and should have been able to go straight to our room, but it didn’t work. When we tried to check in at the desk, the clerk seemed a little flustered, and asked if my name was [something other than Simcha]. Then she said that there was another family also called Fisher, and that was unusual.

Ok? I didn’t think much of it until we got up to our room and unlocked the door, and … There were already some people in that room! Goodness gracious. So embarrassing. 

At first we apologized, but then we realized our key had opened the door. So I said, “Wait a minute, is your last name Fisher?” And it was.

It turns out the other Fisher family’s credit card had been declined, but the clerk thought we were all together, so they went ahead and put them in the room and charged our card! And then when we checked in, they charged our card again! So we got charged twice, but did not get a room! So I sat down in the hall with our luggage, and Damien went to the desk to straighten things out. And see if they actually had a room for us!

Which they did, eventually. With an upgrade, as is meet and just. We had a great ocean view and a big ol’ bed and a big ol’ balcony, and I opened the door to the ocean and cranked up the heat and we just put our feet up for a while, whuffing the breeze and not doing anything for a while, because it was already evening by this point.  It was at this point that I began to think we had packed in too much walking for someone with arthritis in her hip, and too much driving for people who are supposed to be relaxing, and possibly not accounted for this much ridiculousness for a very short weekend, but what can you do.

We eventually made our way to the hotel restaurant, where I ordered maple bacon scallops and a white Russian

which tasted exactly like it sounds, hot and tasty if not terribly sophisticated. Then I ordered a Reuben and another white Russian, and we just kept reminding each other that there is an employment crisis and the waitress is obviously trying her best, because it took about five hours to get that damn sandwich. 

At this point, I was fairly white Russian, and wasn’t able to make much headway in the sandwich. I will say that that was the most goyishe pickle I’ve ever had in my life. It was just a piece of cucumber having a hard time, that’s all. (Yes, we tipped well. Everybody’s having a hard time.) 

So up to the room and I stashed my leftover Reuben in the mini fridge. All night long, the fridge was making these peculiar clattering, howling sounds, and I kept thinking, “This is the second night in a row that I’m not sleeping at all! I should get up an unplug the fridge! But no, my Reuben is in there!” Finally, around 5 a.m., I drifted off to sleep. At 7 a.m., the neighbors STARTED UP A KARAOKE PARTY. Sweet Caroline, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, the whole nine yards. Who does that?? Damien called the front desk to complain. This being the same crew that so adroitly arranged the whole Schrödinger’s Fishers rooming situation, they honestly did not do a great job making the neighbors be quiet; but eventually they sang themselves out, and we dozed off again, and then it was time to check out. We somewhat blearily packed up our stuff and put it all in the car, and then we had a few hours to enjoy the beach; only, to be honest we were both freaking exhausted, and it was cold. So we spent a little time breathing in the salt air and watching the seagulls swoop around, then picked out some candy for the kids, and then we were all done. And I forgot my Reuben.

It was a very pretty ride home, though, really the very peak of foliage glory. A few times, we would come around a bend and get smacked in the face with so much color, we both just started laughing. I do love that man. We have the weirdest anniversaries, though. 

MONDAY
Chili

We used to do a big Italian feast for Columbus Day, but we’ve moved that to St. Joseph’s day, because, c’mon. We didn’t have a lot of time to put together anything indigenous, but Damien made a highly delicious chili.

Jump to Recipe

Do you know, it’s not easy to take a photo of chili that shows it looking delicious, but I tried.

I might have knocked down the salt content a bit, but it was nicely spicy and the balance of meat to bean and corn was great. I had mine with sour cream, cheese, and chives.

Did eat leftovers for lunch.

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches

On the theory that we may be dead tomorrow anyway, I went ahead and set out the good Greek olive oil and weakly warned the children that it was Very Expensive Indeed, and then just walked away. 

As you can see, I sloshed on as much as I liked. Maybe we’ll be dead tomorrow. It was really good. Tasted like olives. 

WEDNESDAY
Meatball subs on homemade french bread

On Wednesday, Dora borrowed my car and did my afternoon school pick-up, meaning I had the afternoon free to fritter away in whatever manner I pleased. So I made a bunch of meatballs in the morning.

Jump to Recipe

I made them with about four pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground turkey, which happened to be on sale. This lightens meatballs up quite a bit, and I prefer them this way. I cook my meatballs on a broiler pan in a 450 oven, and then transfer them to a pot with sauce. This is ten thousand times easier, neater, and faster than pan-frying them, and they’re not quite as scrumptious, but they are meatballs, absolute balls of meat, and nobody every complains.

The roll, though.

Aldi was completely out of rolls when I went shopping. Aldi is like that. They have such great prices and some really wonderful products and treats, but then they’ll be like, “Oh sorry, we’re not doing the whole bread thing today” or they’ll act like they never heard of potatoes. You have to assume, when you go to Aldi, that you’ll also be going somewhere else afterward.

OR, you could think, “Wait, I don’t have to go anywhere this afternoon! I could MAKE MY OWN ROLLS!” Forgetting for the moment that you’re kind of a cruddy baker and your bread turns out well maybe one in five times. 

Jump to Recipe

Well, I did remember a good tip, which is that you can proof your dough in the Instant Pot. Grease the pot, plonk your dough in there, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and press the “yogurt” button. If you need more of a cover, use a plate or a pot lid, not the regular Instant Pot cover, because, as a few friends warned me, you’ll have a horrible time picking the dough out of the sealing ring and the valve and such if it rises too much. 

My dough rose pretty well the first time, but then I decided to start a huge bulb planting project, and I think here is where my bread went wrong, because I had to keep setting timers and dashing in and out of the house, and not always hearing the timer because I was planting bulbs next to the highway and it was pretty loud, what with trucks rushing past and people honking at me. I had a giant tub of cayenne pepper I was spreading around to keep the squirrels from digging up my bulbs, and the wind was blowing, and the cars were honking, and my alarm kept going off, and I kept running in and out, I don’t know. It always goes wrong somehow. Also I was kind of low on flour, so I had to throw some cornmeal in there. Anyway, I decided to make a bunch of short, skinny rolls, and some of them looked so flabby, I tried to scrunch them up a bit before putting them in to bake, and THAT  . . .

IS HOW I GOT TARDIGRADE ROLLS.

Water bear rolls!

Moss piglet(?) rolls!

A lot of them actually turned out looking like normal rolls, but I didn’t take pictures of those, because this isn’t actually a cooking post, sorry. 

They tasted okay. Slightly mealy, no doubt because of the cornmeal. 

THURSDAY
Yakitori chicken, rice

Damien made this fabulous Japanese chicken on the grill. He made a triple recipe of this sauce, and you’re supposed to use it on boneless, skinless chicken on skewers, but I got offended at the boneless, skinless chicken price, so I came home with about 20 intact chicken thighs, and he opted to cook it that way. Great choice. I don’t know if “yakitori” means that it’s on skewers, or if it refers to the sauce. I just don’t know. But look at this chicken!

This is how he prepared it: He whisked together the sauce ingredients and boiled and stirred for 5 minute until it thickened up. He set aside half the sauce and then smoked the chicken for about an hour, coating it on both sides with the sauce a few times. Then he grilled the chicken and coated it over indirect flames, and coated and smoked a little more to make sure everything was cooked all the way.

He served the chicken with the rest of the sauce, plus sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I made a big pot of rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids consider a delicacy.  

Deee-licious. The sauce is sharp and dark savory and tasted wonderful with the charred chicken skin. I really hope we have this again. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese for the kids, possibly fried calamari 

On the way home from our wanderings on Monday, we stopped to pick up the chili ingredients, and I happened to see a bunch of frozen calamari rings, which I couldn’t turn down because they don’t sell it at my normal supermarkets. How much should I push my luck? How hard could it be? Actually I think Damien is going to make fried calamari. I don’t even know what I’m for around here, anymore. I guess I do yoga and eat, and sometimes I plant flowers for the spring, just in case. 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

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.

Damien's Indigenous Chili

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 16 oz canned kidney beans, drained
  • 16 oz canned corn, drained
  • 16 oz beer
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2+ Tbsp cumin
  • 2+ Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 bottle (?) Frank's Hot Sauce
  • olive oil for frying

sour cream, chopped chives, shredded cheese for serving

Instructions

  1. Cook up the onions garlic and peppers in a little olive oil until soft.

  2. Add meat, brown, and add salt and pepper.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and then cover loosely and simmer a couple of hours.

  4. Serve with sour cream, chopped chives, and shredded cheese.

What’s for supper? Vol. 256: Sweet potato fries and unicorn pies

Happy Friday! Some of my kids have been on vacation all week, one has been on vacation since yesterday, and one still has one more week to go. Most of them are currently in the kitchen, shouting and throwing food around. I have a door that locks. This is fine. 

Here’s what we et this week:

SATURDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, pickles

Always a popular meal. 

I had spinach-colored wraps (I couldn’t discern any spinach flavor, despite what the package said) with smoked turkey, bacon, tomatoes, provolone, and spinach. Damien shopped for and cooked this meal, and brought home some Nathan’s dill pickles, which are swell. It reminded me that I want to take another crack at homemade pickles. Last time I tried, they came out too salty. I like salt an awful lot, but these were violently salty. Also the jar broke and there was broken glass in the pickles. But I think we’ll have better luck if we try again. 

Do you make pickles? What do you put in there, and how long do you let it sit?

SUNDAY
Frozen pizza and sundaes for the kids, Chili’s for adults

I still hadn’t gone grocery shopping, I forget why, and I thought I would blow the kids’ minds by offering ice cream sundaes for dinner. They made unhappy growling noises, because they’re not real children; they’re unnatural monsters. So I picked up some frozen pizzas, too, and they made happier growling noises. Damien and I went to Chili’s, and then we wandered around Target because we couldn’t quite get excited about going home yet. 

MONDAY
Regular tacos, guacamole and chips

Just regular tacos made with orange powder from envelopes, and guacamole and chips. 

My guacamole recipe:
Jump to Recipe

I bought scoop-style chips, which won me some favor among the monsters. 

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, sweet potato fries

On Tuesday I managed to finally buy some groceries, and because I was running very late and it was extremely hot out, I decided it would be a swell time to make homemade sweet potato fries. I peeled about five pounds of potatoes, sliced them thin, and fried them in vegetable oil in batches, then drained them and sprinkled them with sea salt.

But not before I burned the ever loving hell out of my fingers. This is how it always goes: I hate deep frying, so the only time I ever consider doing it is when I’m in some deranged state of mind — the very state of mind that makes me terrible at deep frying. I was thinking about something else while I cooked, and carelessly tossed a handful of fries into the oil, which sloshed up over three of my fingers. HURT LIKE A MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER. MOTHER!!!! Nothing makes me angrier than burning myself. My finger’s still all purple and blistered. Dammit! It’s fine now, but I’m still mad.

The fries were fine. They tasted fine, maybe a little soggy. 

I roasted some chicken breasts with basic seasonings and served the chicken with baguettes, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. 
 

I also put out provolone but forgot to put any on my sandwich, alas. Some day I shall make a balsamic reduction, but not today.

WEDNESDAY
Beef and broccoli on rice

This is the best sauce I’ve found for beef and broccoli. I followed this Damn Delicious recipe exactly, except I used fresh ginger instead of powdered, and that’s how you should do it. This actually makes more sauce than you will need.

It’s a sweet and savory sauce with a sneaky amount of heat that creeps up on you. Very good meal to prep ahead of time, and then you can cook it in just a few minutes. I served it over rice made in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method (equal amounts of rice and water, close the valve, press “rice,” and that’s it. I have stopped rinsing my rice, because either it doesn’t make a difference or else it comes out better that way but I have forgotten in what way).

THURSDAY
Sugar rub smoked chicken thighs, potato salad, corn on the cob, unicorn pie

Thursday was the day everyone in the family would hit two weeks after their second vaccination, so we had a no-mask cookout. We haven’t been masking outdoors anyway, but it still felt like a milestone!

Damien made his smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub. He smoked the thighs for about an hour and a half, then grilled them to caramelize the sugar rub and give the skin a little char. This is an unfailingly delightful and delicious way to prepare meat, and you can use the rub with chicken or pork. I think we need to try it with steak. 

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He cooked the corn right in the husks, which is a very easy way to prepare it if you’ve got the space on your grill. 

Just peel and eat. I was going to put out butter and elote seasoning, but people were already tearing in, so I didn’t bother. 

So we had the chicken, the corn, and a little potato salad. Very simple recipe: Just boiled yellow potatoes with skins, diced red onion, and a dressing made of mayo, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and celery salt. As they say on Cutthroat Kitchen, it reminded me of potato salad, so there you go. 

 

 I got it into my head to make some pies. One of the greatest triumphs of my late 40’s is that I can make a pie crust without freaking out, and I haven’t ruined a crust in years. (Maybe someday I’ll achieve this with deep frying, who knows.) I shred the butter and use ice water, I use only my fingers to incorporate the butter, I use plenty of flour on the counter, I only roll in one direction, and that’s all my secrets. I made a double recipe of this recipe

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and it was more than enough for two pie shells and two decorative tops. Probably could have made two full tops with it. 

I also brushed the top crust with egg white and shpronkled it with sugar, to give it a little sparkle. Well, Corrie did. 

As you can see, they needed sparkle because they were STAR AND UNICORN PIES. Look how pretty! 

Pretty pretty. 

I made the filling with three quarts of strawberries and one quart of blueberries. Or, maybe they were pints. I don’t know, big boxes. I used this fruit filling recipe

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(obviously substituting the strawberries and blueberries for the cherries). The almond extract gives it a nice cozy taste.

I baked it in a 400 oven for twenty minutes, then 350 for another 15, and it was a little overdone, oh well. I was smart enough to put a pan under the pies, which caught a ton of the syrup that bubbled over. 

Served with whipped cream. 

The filling was too liquidy, but probably would have firmed up if we had let it sit for longer before eating it. The flavor was wonderful, so juicy and summery, and not too sweet. 

And ha, I just realized I probably got the idea to make a prancing unicorn pie from this Twitter thread with its theory about cave art. My subconscious is always going, “Yes, but how can we apply this to FOOD?” 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein, frozen egg rolls and dumplings

And lo, it was Friday again. I think people are getting a little tired of lo mein, but NOT ME. I adore this recipe.

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The sauce is so simple and flavorful, and you can add in whatever you want. Today we’re having sugar snap peas, shrimp, with fresh minced garlic and ginger to brighten it up. Maybe some red onion or asparagus. 

A few people have asked about the noodles I use.  You can make lo mein with anything you could reasonably call a “noodle,” including spaghetti (and linguine, etc.), and nobody will arrest you or anything. I like using rice fettuccine, for the taste and for the amount of surface area for grabbing up the sauce. It is pricier than pasta, but you can get away with serving less of it than if you were just serving spaghetti, especially if you add plenty of vegetables and/or meat. Just be sure to cook it al dente, so it doesn’t get mushy when you add in your other stuff. 

And that’s it! That’s all my secrets. Don’t forget to leave tips about making pickles of you have any!

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

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. 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

Cherry pie filling for TWO pies

Keyword cherries, cherry pie, desserts, fruit desserts, pie

Ingredients

  • 7 cups cherries pitted
  • 2-2/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Instructions

To pit cherries:

  1. Pull the stem off the cherry and place it, stem-side down, in a bottle with a narrow neck, like a beer bottle. Drive the blunt end of a chopstick down through the cherry, forcing the pit out into the bottle.

To make the filling:

  1. Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy. 

  2. Stir the almond extract into the cherry mixture and heat in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.

  3. Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells. 

Recipe Notes

This would also be fine over ice cream. 

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.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 246: Comfort food

It’s been quite a couple of weeks. If you are thinking to yourself, “They are not eating like it’s Lent!” you are right. We are eating like a family who are being very nice to a grieving person who went a little bit crackerdog after the funeral, and whose comfort food is food.  Damien and the kids have done so much of the cooking. (For those who don’t know, my mom died two weeks ago.)

These are the food highlights of the last 2.5 weeks or so:

Khachapuri and asparagus

I shared the recipe for this on the morning before I made it, and all I had to report at the time were high hopes. Well, they were absolutely delicious. This is a Georgian (as in the country) dish, a cheese-filled bread boat with an egg cooked into the middle. I made a triple recipe of this recipe. FABULOUS. 

I didn’t end up using much more than half of the filling, though, and they still overflowed.

The kids immediately started suggesting variations of various meats and sauces that could be added, which I am not opposed to, but there’s also something to be said for not turning everything into pizza. 

Anyway, will definitely make again. I may use ready-made dough next time to speed things along. You can see that you add and cook the egg just briefly toward the end, and then you can break up the yolk and stir it into the hot cheese. I also threw some hot pepper flakes on top.

I also pan-cooked a bunch of asparagus in olive oil and squeezed fresh lemon juice on top. The lemon juice seeped into the khapachuri on my plate, and that was not a problem at all. 

Comfort-your-wife sandwiches

One night Damien made a big platter of sandwiches with all kinds of lovely salamis and other cured meats, cheeses, tomatoes, and lots of basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and freshly-ground salat and pepper

and another night he made Reubens with kosher dills and jalapeño kettle chips, which isn’t necessarily a photogenic meal, but oh man.

The deli a special sale on sliced corned beef (which either is or isn’t the same thing as pastrami, I forget) and Swiss cheese together, so he got a bunch and made grilled sandwiches with Russian dressing and sauerkraut. Heavenly.

St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone having finally acknowledged no one is really crazy about the corned beef boiled dinner, Damien made a full Irish breakfast instead. Completely delicious, and an insane amount of food. 

Irish bangers, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, roast potatoes and mushrooms, sourdough toast, and fried eggs on top, and everything cooked in lots of butter and bacon grease. Here’s a better view of those wonderful mushroom and potatoes:

I wasn’t a big fan of the Irish bangers — they were kind of mealy — but other than that, I think we’ll have this for St. Patrick’s Day every year from now on. 

St. Joseph’s Day

We moved our annual Italian feast from Columbus Day to St. Joseph’s day. Works for me. Clara put together a giant antipasto plate, which she replenished several times as it was ravaged 

and Damien made his lovely pork and veal ragu with fettucine (you can’t see the lovely savory gravyish part here, but there was lots of it) 

and I made a stab at making suppli, but I forgot you have to chill the risotto really well to form it into balls. So I just put it back in the fridge (and everyone was already pretty stuffed anyway}. We had Italian ices for dessert, just as St. Joseph would have wanted. 

Then on Sunday, Clara made the risotto into suppli while I took the kids to the farm, and then I fried them up for dinner, and even the stove was happy

I had to throw some of the suppli back in the oven for a while to make sure the cheese inside was completely melted. Worth the wait.

We also had the leftover ragu, and I made cannoli, which was also supposed to be on Friday.

I made the filling with just ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and a little almond extract. The taste was perfect, but I wish it was a little thicker and less runny. Other than letting it sit in the colander longer, any tips on that? 

Ham and biscuits

Only worth mentioning because one of the biscuits, the one formed out of all the leftover scraps crammed together, kinda looked like a turkey.

It is a good recipe. A little weird, as it calls for cream of tartar and eggs, but they always come out light inside, with a nice fragile buttery crust.

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Pizza

We’re basically empty-nesters, with only nine children at home, and I’m finally ready to face the fact that we don’t need six extra large pizzas anymore. That is too much pizza. But the final Pizza No. 6 was a doozy: Olives, red onions, artichoke hearts, fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and little blobs of pesto. 

We usually use Portland Pie frozen pizza dough,  which comes in generous portions and is easy to handle, especially the beer one. This time we tried their Everything dough (with “everything bagel” seasoning mixed it). I’m not a fan. It tore very easily and didn’t rise well, and I guess I just don’t want poppy seeds in my pizza dough after all.

Here’s a pro tip for you: While you’re sitting in the kitchen for forty minutes cooking two pizzas at a time, it’s okay to pass the time by snacking on a few sun-dried tomatoes, but it’s not a great idea to mindlessly scarf down about a cubic foot of them, unless you are angry at your stomach and wish to punish it. And everyone watching TV with you that evening when it’s too chilly to open a window. Wooooo-eeeeee. I sure do like them sun-dried tomaters. 

Tonight Damien is going to teach Irene how to make Marcella Hazan’s magic sauce, since she is its biggest fan.

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 244: Armed with cheeses

What with one thing and another, I never really went shopping this week (which I was supposed to do on Tuesday). I just kept running to the store and muddling through, and it ended up a pretty delicious week. We had already made plans for the kids to do some cooking, so that helped. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Tacos al pastor, plantain chips

Almost a very delicious meal. I made too much meat, which means I crowded the pan. I CROWDED THE PAN. Actually I didn’t even use a pan! There was so much meat, I attempted to broil it in the oven, and I crowded the oven.

So the flavors were all there, but rather than being seared and juicy, the meat was in sort of wads, covered in a flavorful paste. Rather sad when you think what could have been. 

I cooked the pineapple separately on the stove, and they turned out great. Gosh, I love seared pineapple.

I more or less followed this recipe, except I used pineapple juice instead of orange juice, and I used too much pineapple in the marinade and didn’t reserve enough for the tacos. The extra pineapple pulp did not help the pasty wad situation. But it’s a relatively simple recipe, and I admired the combination of ancho chili and pineapple. Very warming, and then you get your lime and cilantro and red onion, and it’s at least potentially a little party. 

Guys, I’m not a very good cook. I’m adventurous, but I have terrible technique, and no respect for recipes, and I panic and make bad decisions that I know are bad decisions. The only thing that keeps me going is the promise that I can take pictures of food. Anyway, we’re gonna revisit this recipe when it’s warm enough to cook on the grill. I did remember to warm up the tortillas for once, so that was nice. 

SUNDAY
Stuffed shells, fried mozzarella sticks

A Lucy and Irene meal! Irene made the stuffed shells, which turned out to be a bit more work than she had bargained for, but she forged ahead.

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They turned out perfect!

Lucy made fried mozzarella sticks, which we haven’t made before. Much easier than I expected, and definitely worth the trouble.

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Basically you slice each string cheese stick down the middle, then dredge in flour, then in egg with a little milk, then panko crumbs, then egg again, then crumbs again, then freeze, then deep fry. 

Also delicious. We put them in the oven for a few minutes to make sure the cheese was melted, although that probably wasn’t necessary, as you can see it oozing out. The outside was crisp and crunchy and the inside was hot and melty. Perfect.  

A lovely cheesy meal. And, uh, we had cheesecake for dessert. Look, we like cheese. 

I don’t know if the kids had any great sense of accomplishment for what they produced, but I was proud of them, and so was Corrie. 

Oh, and last Friday, Elijah made the mac and cheese, which is some knowledge he especially felt like he needed to be armed with before he leaves the nest. 

Turned out great. My big secret about mac and cheese is just a normal white sauce with plenty of whatever cheese you have lying around, and then a nice squirt of mustard and/t several sloshes of tabasco sauce mixed in before you add it to the macaroni. And very buttery bread crumbs for the top. We use about three pounds of raw macaroni for the family, if you’re interested (and we generally have leftovers.)

So at least three of the kids are now armed with cheese skills. I made a big effort to just give directions to them, and not do it myself, which is a skill I am learning.

MONDAY
English muffin pizzas

This was the meal Sophia chose to make. They turned out great, but I didn’t do as well with my end, and complained that there weren’t enough, even though I never told her how many to make. Also I forgot to take a picture. 

TUESDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

I think Damien made a paste of oil and garlic and salt and various things, pan seared the meat, and then roasted it in the oven. Whatever he did, it was fabulous as always. 

Okay, here’s my hot sandwich dilemma. What if you want a toasted bun and also melted cheese? If you put it all together and then put it in the oven to melt the cheese, only the outside of the bun gets toasted, and the inside gets soggy, especially if you use horseradish sauce. But if you toast the inside of the bun first, and then put the stuff in and toast it again to melt the cheese, then the bun gets over toasted. It’s a problem. 

Am I doing Lent right? 

WEDNESDAY
Aldi pizza

Nothing to report. It’s okay pizza, and pretty cheap for the size. 

THURSDAY
One-pan chicken thighs with butternut squash and garlic, green salad

Drop, drop, slow tears. 

(This is the butternut squash fresh out of the microwave, where I cooked it on high for four minutes to make it yielding enough to cut, peel, and seed. It weeps.)

I changed up my normal “one-pan chicken and whatnot” recipe a bit, and I liked it. I added whole cloves of garlic, lots of paprika, hot pepper flakes, and a little maple syrup with the olive oil. I think I also put kosher salt, pepper, and maybe thyme. 

Could have stayed in the oven a few minutes longer to get a little darker roast on the garlic, but it was tasty. A little spicy but just mainly warming, faintly sweet. 

And several of us ate a green vegetable. It’s been a while. 

FRIDAY
I think seared scallops in cream sauce over fettuccine. 

Ahem, continuing our spare and penitential menu. It’s not my fault the stores put seafood on sale for Lent! I grabbed a few bags a few weeks ago and stashed them in the freezer, and Damien volunteered to make something delicious with them. He said something about mixing cheese in with the pasta water so it coats the noodles.  (Although he said that before he spent the morning digging through the ice so he could park his car next to my car so he could jump start it because I left the keys in it overnight.)

Some of the kids are fairly seafood averse, so I was trying to explain how accessible and inoffensive scallops are. If you are in this situation, I suggest avoiding the term “fish gumdrops.” It doesn’t help. 

And now I’d like to point out that I cooked supper exactly twice this week: The tacos al pastor, and the chicken with squash. We had frozen pizza once, and everything else was Genuine Hot Dinner Made By Someone Else.  Ghost of mother who has escaped babyland is here to say: Someday it could happen to youuuuuuu!

Stuffed shells

Just a basic recipe. You can add meat to the sauce or spinach to the cheese, or anything that strikes your fancy. Serves about 10.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-oz boxes jumbo shells
  • 2 32-oz tubs ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4-5 cups pasta sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.

  3. Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof pan or dish. Stuff each shell with about 1/2-1/3 cup of cheese filling and lay the stuffed shells close together.

  4. Top with the rest of the pasta sauce, and sprinkled the remaining mozzarella on top of that. Cover loosely with foil and cook for 45 minutes or longer, until it's bubbly. 

 

Fried mozzarella sticks

Ingredients

  • 18 sticks of string cheese, split lengthwise
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2+ panko bread crumbs
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs together with the milk in a shallow dish. Put the flour in another shallow dish, and the bread crumbs in a third.

  2. Take each split cheese stick, roll it in flour, dip it in egg, and roll it in panko crumbs, then dip it in egg again, then panko crumbs again.

  3. When you've coated all the cheese sticks, cover and freeze them for at least an hour.

  4. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. You want enough oil that you can submerge the cheese sticks. If you put a wooden spoon in the oil and lots of little bubbles collect on it, the oil is hot enough.

  5. Fry the cheese sticks for just a few minutes a few at a time until they are lightly browned all over.

  6. Drain them on a paper towel and serve while still piping hot. If the cheese isn't melted inside, you can pop the cheese sticks in the oven for a few minutes.

What’s for supper? Vol. 241: What gets blossomed next?

And a happy Friday to you, week who just about killed us. We’re very glad most of the kids are back in school in person, but YEESH. We Fishers do not excel at transitions; we certainly do not. It didn’t help that we had lots of Nighttime Diabetes Excitement, which is one of my least favorite kinds of excitement. 

Pretty good food, though. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Meatball subs

I always say “nothing to report” when I make meatballs, but guess what? I have something to report! I have been under seasoning them. I bumped up all the seasoning by maybe 20%, and then I added a healthy glug of red wine. So nice! Just a little more savory and rich. I didn’t take a photo, possibly because of being busy eating.

I used the leftover sauce from Friday’s spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s magical sauce. And that was a good meal. 

SUNDAY
Hot chicken wings, beer brats, bloomin’ onions, a vast assortment of crunchy snackeroos and dips

Super Bowl food! Damien made his easy peasy hot chicken wings with blue cheese dip, and lots of beer brats with onions three ways (cooked in beer with onions and served with sautéed onions and raw onions); and, fearing that wasn’t enough onions, I made three bloomin’ onions. 

The hot wings were fantastic, as usual. Damien used full wings, rather than wingettes (gosh I hate that word), which I actually prefer. 

The bloomin’ onions were probably more fun to make than they were to eat. People were obliging, but we only ended up eating about half. I guess I had it in my head that it was a party since it was the Super Bowl, so I made three giant onions. 

Here I am demonstrating the lovely job my little onion blossomer does:

I didn’t show this part, but because the onion sits on a little base that’s lower than the blades, the “petals” are still attached at the root end when you take it off the cutter, which is how you can fry the onion all in one piece.  Now I’m wondering what else I can use this device to cut. Definitely a cantaloupe. We will have melon blossoms come summer, let me tell you, with little berries here and there. And maybe . . . potatoes! I’m seriously considering making some deep fried potato blossoms for Valentine’s Day.

And I’m almost ashamed to tell you this, but what I really want to try is a pork blossom. I’ll get a nice piece of lean, boneless pork, maybe marinate it for a while, and then freeze it for an hour or two to firm it up, and then . . . VOOM. Pork blossom. I guess I could deep fry if after that.  THIS IS BIG BRAIN TIME, EVERYBODY. I feel like there is some disadvantage to my plan, or some wrinkle I’m not anticipating, but I also feel like it’s going to happen anyway. 

I took so many damn pictures of these onions at various stages, I might as well share them.

Onions in ice water, firming up:

Onions coated in seasoned flour:

Onions coated in seasoned flour, then dipped in egg batter, then seasoned flour again, waiting for the oil to heat up:

Onion merrily frying in oil:

You have to fry them upside down first, shoving them down pretty hard in the pot to force the petals open; then flip it over and finish cooking it right side up. Then you can pull it out . . . 

drain it, and set it on a plate with a little dish of sauce.

Then you pull the petals off and dip. 

I used the flour, batter, and sauce recipes on this page, but next time I make this, I’ll use more ketchup and less horseradish in the sauce, which tasted a bit harsh. A bloomin’ onion should be nothing but fun and delight, no harshness at all. 

MONDAY
Turkey bacon avocado wraps; leftovers

I figured there would be lots of leftovers, and I was very right. So we had what passed for a light meal (supplemented by wings and brats): Spinach wraps, deli turkey, bacon, avocado, and Swiss cheese, with honey mustard dressing.

I don’t know why wraps feel like more of a treat than sandwiches, but they do. Maybe because I always used to order one after giving birth, and I associate them with having room service (and that first meal you eat after you have a baby is just indescribably delicious). Now I just need my own chipped ice machine and I can live that swanky hospital life every day. 

TUESDAY
Golden rice with salmon; egg rolls

New recipe. Frozen salmon is actually fairly cheap if you’re not making a giant slab of salmon your main course. We didn’t have any furikake. I don’t even know what furikake is (okay, I looked it up, and it sounds neat), but I thought the rest of it sounded delicious enough that we could limp along without it. 

Alas, this dish was not a hit, despite lots of fresh ginger and garlic and both parts of the scallion. You cook the rice, then coat it with egg yolk before stir frying it.

Also you fry up the egg whites in the pan separately and then add them into the rice. This recipe has an awful lot of putting things into the pan and then taking them out again and then adding them back in, then making a little space in the middle of the thing you’re cooking and cooking something else in there, and then combining it with the other thing . . . to be honest, I was a little relieved that it wasn’t a popular dish, because it was too much work and I don’t want to do it again!

It wasn’t bad, just bland. Needed furikake, no doubt. I also crowded the pan when cooking the salmon, so the fish part was kind of soggy, rather than crisp and toasted, which is sad. We ended up adding soy sauce and/or hot sauce. I did like the egg-coated rice, and will probably adopt that for another recipe. It gave the rice a nice richness, plus of course a cheery yellow color. And I did like the addition of the fluffy egg whites in with the rice. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken shawarma

I was going to make this over the weekend, but it seemed like everyone needed cheering up mid-week, so I made shawarma, which everyone loves. 

We had these cute little mini pita breads, which aren’t really better than normal pita, but they are cute. Tons of various kinds of olive, feta, cucumbers and tomatoes, parsley, yogurt sauce. So much garlic in everything, my lips were fizzing. So good. 

I usually put the onions in with the chicken to marinate, but I just didn’t feel like dealing with onions first thing in the morning, so I just spread them over the chicken right before I cooked it, and it turned out fabulous.

Probably do it that way from now on. There is plenty of flavor in the meat, and I liked having the onions a bit more crisp. 

THURSDAY
Pork nachos

Another successful meal that I decided on at the last minute. I’ve made John Herreid’s carnitas many times, and everyone likes them, but I was going to be driving around all day, so I chunked a piece of fatty pork into the Instant Pot with a bottle of Mexican coke, some cinnamon sticks, a quartered orange, some bay leaves, a splash of canola oil, and tons of oregano, salt, and pepper, and pressed the “meat” button. This still cracks me up. YOU MAKE MEAT NOW. *boop*

It cooked it on high pressure for 35 minutes, and then I left it on warm for a few hours until dinner, when I took the meat out and shredded it, then spread it over tortilla chips and sprinkled it with shredded cheese, and broiled it.

My land, it was good. Really tasty and tender, middling spicy and warming but not too sweet, with no need to add additional seasoning. I had mine with scallions and sour cream.

FRIDAY

I think we are having migas. The kids are having their Valentine’s Parties at school, so I’m hoping they’ll be full of hygienic store-bought individually wrapped treats and won’t care very much that it’s migas for supper, which they don’t like because they are culinary fools. 

(Pictured: Past migas)
I may make some beans and rice, but then again, I may not. Maybe I’ll just have some Pixy Stix.

Hey, don’t forget to leave your suggestions for what gets blossomed next around here! Although we all know it’s going to be a potato. (And yes, I looked up “getting blossomed” on Urban Dictionary to make sure it’s not a kink of some kind. It is not.)

Here’s the recipe cards!

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

Hot chicken wings with blue cheese dip (after Deadspin)

Basic, tasty hot wings with blue cheese sauce

Ingredients

  • chicken wingettes
  • oil for frying

For the hot sauce:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup tabasco sauce
  • 1/8 cup sriracha sauce
  • salt
  • vinegar (optional)

Blue cheese sauce:

  • sour cream
  • blue cheese
  • optional: lemon juice, mayonnaise
  • celery sticks for serving

Instructions

  1. Fry the wingettes in several inches of oil until they are lightly browned. Do a few at a time so they don't stick together. Set them on paper towels to cool.

  2. Melt the butter and mix together wit the rest of the hot sauce ingredients. Toss the wings in the hot sauce.

  3. Mix together the sour cream and crumbled blue cheese. Use a food processor or whisk vigorously to break up the blue cheese. You can add lemon juice or a little mayonnaise to thin it.

  4. Serve with blue cheese dip and celery sticks.

 

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
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 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. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 205: We put the “us” in virus

Just kidding, we’re not actually sick. Damien and I are used to working from home. We’re used to having ten kids crawling all over each other in a small space. I’m even kinda sorta used to teaching kids how to do basic math (a three digit number is like a big meal, like a Passover seder. You can’t eat it all at once; you have to have it in separate courses, in order. The first course is chicken soup with matzoh balls. But you can only fit nine matzoh balls in a bowl, so you have to carry . . . ). We’re fine. This is fine. How are you?

Here’s what we had to eat this week, with a menu somewhat based on what was left on the shelves after the locusts passed through:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken on salad

I know I often say on Friday that Saturday seems far away, but this time it feels like about forty-three years. Good heavens. I was actually thinking about what was going to be the defining “Look how innocent we were back then, just before the big bad thing happened” moment. I think it has to be this, from March 11, 2020:

So anyway, if you were wondering what America did to deserve COVID-19, wonder no more.

SO ANYWAY, on Saturday we had mixed greens with sliced buffalo chicken (from frozen) with blue cheese, crunchy fried onions from a can, and blue cheese dressing.

It’s as close as you can get to fast food while still being a salad. I know that sentence didn’t work out and I don’t care. 

SUNDAY
English muffin pizzas

Benny asked for this dinner. Benny was happy. 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips

The Fishers begin to feel the privations of the pandemic. They didn’t have regular ground beef, only “chubs” packed up in opaque three-pound tubes with a photo of meat printed on the wrapper. We planned hamburgers, so I thought it would be easiest to slice the meat into burgers while it was still in chub form.

It worked, but I deemed it unnecessarily squalid. Next time I’ll take the wrapper off first. 

TUESDAY
Boiled Dinner, cookies

Speaking of squalid, it’s our annual boiled dinner for St. Patrick’s whatever. I’ve tried various, more authentic Irish food over the years, and, you know, there’s a reason the phrase “Irish cuisine” sounds so off. So we just had our same oil Irish American boiled dinner: Corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and carrots, with plenty of mustard. 

We also made cookies, I forget why. I guess because we were nervous. I couldn’t find the chocolate chips, mostly because somebody ate them, but we did inexplicably have butterscotch and white chocolate chips in the house. We also ran out of brown sugar, so I used mostly white. The combination of these three things made for some blindingly sweet cookies. I could have mitigated the screamingness of the sugar by adding some walnuts, but I thought to myself, “If they wanted walnuts, they should have left the chocolate chips alone!” This is virus thinking and I know it; but nevertheless, I didn’t put any nuts in.

Also, I forgot to combine the dry ingredients before I added the flour, so I put the rest in the mixer and mixed the hell out of it so it would be well blended. Of course this meant the dough was quite warm when it went into the oven, resulting in these unfortunate puddleform cookies:

But I just bulked up the rest of the dough with more flour and put it in the fridge for a bit before baking, and the rest of the cookies improved considerably

People have also advised me that using half shortening and half butter, rather than all butter, will result in puffier cookies. Noted!

I just used a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe you can find anywhere, so I won’t bother making up a card.

WEDNESDAY
Reubens

We had tons of corned beef left over, so I sliced it as thin as I could.

I forgot you are supposed to grill Reubens, though. I toasted my bread and then laid the meat and cheese on and slid it in the oven, then added sauerkraut and dressing. They were fine, not amazing. There’s still quite a pile of meat, much to the kids’ chagrin, so I may throw it in the freezer and take it out again next week if they make me angry. WHO’S EATING WALNUTS NOW, EH, KIDS????

THURSDAY
Tacos

I mean, I made tacos in the sense that there was meat in the house, and Damien went to the convirus store, I mean convenience store, for tortillas and cheese. Listen. I taught four kids math, and it was STRANGE DIFFERENT math, too. I don’t know what a module is. I don’t know what a place value disk is. All I know is matzoh balls. 

We also had fried dough

 

Jump to Recipe

 

because it was St. Joseph’s day, but I zero percent felt like making puff pastries. Which aren’t even really that hard; I just didn’t want to. I had been promising the kids I’d recreate the fried dough we had at the ocean last August, though, so it was finally the day for that. Super easy recipe, just flour, salt, baking powder, butter, and water, let it rest, flatten and fry, then dust with powdered sugar.

Some of them got exciting bubbles in them when they fried. 

My mother used to make fried dough, long before I ever ate it at a fair or on a boardwalk. She called it “rubber bread” and we loved it. Today I found out she called it that because if you don’t roll it out thin enough, and you don’t let the oil heat up enough before cooking, it sure does taste like rubber. I love my mother very much, but she only had about two dishes that weren’t completely terrible. This was because she didn’t care what she ate. She liked good food, but she also liked terrible food. For lunch, she would take literally any leftover dinner food, heat it up in a double boiler, and douse with with salsa from one of those comically huge salsa jugs. I mean, at least it’s an ethos. And she never had to share her lunch.

FRIDAY
Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s sauce

There wasn’t much sauce left in the stores last time I shopped, but there were plenty of canned tomatoes. I bought . . .many canned tomatoes. This sauce is stupid easy, and it tastes miraculously savory.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

Just three ingredients! Tomatoes, onions, butter! Maybe a little salt! I know everyone is always calling recipes “amazing,” but this will truly fully ignite all your buttons of amazement! 

And that’s about it. I guess we have to watch Bill Nye now or something. 

Oh, don’t forget about the withDraw2020 daily art challenge! We’re getting more and more people joining in every day. Very simple rules here, with the daily prompts. Today’s prompt is “patient.” Be sure to tag your work #withDraw2020 when you share it.

Some people are using the prompts to write poetry or take photos, too, and some people are doing whatever they want each day. I love it. It’s just something to keep us creative and in touch with each other. 

 

Fried dough

Makes about 15 slabs of fried dough the size of a small plate

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp (half a stick) cold butter
  • 1-1/2 cups lurkworm water
  • 2 cups oil for frying
  • confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
  • cinnamon for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

  2. Cut the cold butter into bits and work it gently into the dough.

  3. Add the water and stir until the dough is all combined.

  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for 15 minutes

  5. Separate the dough into pieces and flatten each piece into a thin disk with your fingers. If it's sticky, put a little confectioner's sugar on your work surface.

  6. Heat the oil in a pan. You can deep fry it or use less oil and fry it in a small amount of oil; your choice. The oil is ready when you put a wooden spoon in and little bubbles form around it.

  7. Carefully lay the disc of dough in the hot oil. Let it cook a few minutes, just barely getting brown, and then turn it and cook the other side.

  8. Remove the dough, let the excess oil drain off, and sprinkle it immediately with sugar and cinnamon if you like.

  9. You can keep these hot in the oven for a bit, but they're best when they're very hot.

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

What’s for supper? Vol. 201: Potatoes and other tornadoes

Well! I’m fat; how are you? Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Bagel, egg, sausage, and cheese sandwiches; blueberries

Easy peasy weekend meal. There really isn’t much better than a lovely fried egg with crisp, lacy edges and a runny yolk. Goodness gracious. 

The blueberries weren’t terrible, for Februberries. 

SUNDAY
Hot wings, sausage rolls, potato tornados, hot pretzels

Sunday, you may recall, was . . . something. Nothing. Nothing happened. Everybody liked it and there was nothing funny about it at all! Mostly what I did was cook and eat. 

Damien made scrumptious hot wings with blue cheese dip and celery. He uses the Deadspin recipe and he says it’s very easy.

 

I had been meaning for several weeks to make sausage rolls, which is something Damien once mentioned enjoying as a kid in Australia.

Jump to Recipe

I guess they are street food, to be enjoyed with ketchup. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to replicate them, but the basic idea sounded yummy. 

OH, THEY WERE YUMMY.

I read a bunch of recipes and whittled it down to a very basic form. You fry up some diced onions and mix them up with loose sausage (I used sweet Italian sausage squoze out of the casings) and egg and some seasonings. Cut puff pastry into strips, lay the raw sausage mixture in a line down the middle of the strips

fold it up into a long roll, cut it into separate rolls, brush with egg, and bake. I put “everything” seasoning on some of them before baking, and that was a good idea. 

Oh man, they were delicious. Flaky, buttery layers of pastry melding gradually into the savory filling. Absolutely fantastic. 

I was truly surprised that none of the kids liked them! The tastes were not challenging in the slightest. I ended up eating them myself throughout the week. They were good cold. They were good reheated, if a little less perky in texture.

I really hope you make these. They are so easy, and really pay off in flavor and chompability. You can make them well ahead of time and keep them refrigerated

then throw them in the oven just before guests come over.

Okay, now you can listen to my sad story about the potatoes.

Around midnight, my Facebook feed switches over to other continents, and a couple of weeks ago, I saw some East Asian dad I’m apparently friends with showing off pics of his kids enjoying some kind of weird street food I had never seen. I googled around a bit and discovered they are called “potato springs,” “potato twists,” or, escalatedly, “potato tornados.” It’s a spiral-cut potato stuck on a skewer and deep fried. Intrigued, I googled some more, and found a recipe where a guy used crushed Doritos for seasoning. That is my kind of guy. 

Jump to Recipe

If you’re a street vendor, you will have a potato spiralizer; but if you’re an idiot, you’ll try using a cheese slicer first. You sort of hook the skewer into the slice part and press and turn the potato at the same time. In the video, this resulted in a potato neatly spiraled around a skewer. In real life, I got this:

So I gave up and stomped out of the kitchen. But then I thought, well, the problem was that the skewer wasn’t stable, and the potato kept slipping around, and what if I used a box grater, and anchored the end of the skewer on the inside of the box grater? 

And that actually worked really well! I got halfway through the potato and it was all tidily coiled up on the skewer inside the box grater. So I kept going, and what do you think?

I grated the skewer in half. 

So I got mad again and stomped out of the kitchen and complained about how stupid it was to Damien, and he fully supported me in giving up on this stupid project. 

But then I thought, “But wait. Is there anything intrinsically superior about a potato in a spiral, or is it just that, when one has a spiralizing machine, that’s how it turns out? The point is to have thin, battered slices of potato on a stick, is it not?” So I decided to make one last try. This time I bring plenty-a gas! And I just took the freaking potato and cut it up into slices that weren’t attached to each other, and stuck them on a stick by the handful.

Then, uh, I did it eleven more times with eleven other potatoes. It’s not that my honor was at stake, exactly. I think I’m just dumb. 

So I mixed up the batter an crushed up the Doritos and set it aside until it was time for frying in a few hours. This, it turns out, was a tactical error in what had heretofore been an entirely streamlined and efficient process. The batter is supposed to be thin, so you can just kind of slosh it over the potato sticks and fry it up. But when you make it ahead of time and leave flour-based batter sitting around for a few hours, guess what it turns into? Correct: Glop. This is doubly true if you have added Dorito crumbs to it, and the Dorito crumbs swell up and absorb all the liquid.

Well, by this time, my honor really was at stake, and I was still dumb. So I heated up a big pot of oil and, using the impasto technique I learned in the oil paint section of Mr. Bennet’s Portfolio Development class, I forced the batter in, on, and around the potato skewers. It didn’t want to stick but I made it stick, and then fried the hell out of them. 

Some of them turned out, you know, fine, if not exactly elegant.

Some of them turned out like a cry for an exorcist

I managed this by showering them with kosher salt

They kind of reminded me of when those guys pour molten aluminum down into a termite nest and then pull it out of the sand, and then they put it in their house for some reason.

Well, the kids ate them. I ate one, and felt that it would probably carry me through my potato needs for about eleven weeks. 

The final verdict: Not a total disaster? I guess there are varieties with cheese and pleasant, piquant seasonings, and it would definitely help to batter them before the batter solidifies. My version would have been great if we had been walking around in the freezing sleet for a few hours and our fingers and noses were numb. Otherwise, it was just, wow, a lot. 

We also had hot pretzels.

MONDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, fries

A fine make-ahead meal. Damien roasted some chicken breasts in the morning and sliced them up, and we put the sandwiches together in the evening. 

Ciabatta rolls, chicken, tomato, basil, provolone, plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and freshly-ground salt and pepper. 

TUESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, squash abbondanza

I started dinner going and then remembered we had a middle school planning committee thingy to go to, so I yelled some hazy instructions to the kids about how to finish it up and serve it. So I don’t have any photos of dinner, but I do have this:

Oops, my ringer was off. They did boil, drain, and mash the potatoes with butter and milk, and they did cook and slice the meatloaf. They also took the squash out of the oven, pack it into a dish, cover it, and send it directly into refrigerator exile without benefit of being on the table for even a minute. I don’t know what I expected. I threw it away the next day. I like butternut squash, but if you lose momentum, it’s really hard to get it back. 

Here is my basic meatloaf recipe, if you care:
Jump to Recipe

And here is one of my squash recipes:
Jump to Recipe

 

WEDNESDAY
Pulled pork nachos

I put a big hunk of pork in the slow cooker with a can of beer, about a cup of cider vinegar, several cloves of garlic, and some jarred jalapeños. I let it cook all day, then fished it out, shredded it, mixed it up with plenty of salt, garlic powder, dried onions, cumin, chili powder, and pepper flakes, and spread it on top of chips, and topped it with plenty of shredded cheese. 

Shoved it into a hot oven until the cheese was melted and served with sour cream, salsa, cilantro, and limes.

I also put queso on mine because I’m too thin and people are worried. 

THURSDAY
Pork ramen 

Thin slices of pork sautéed in sesame oil with soy sauce, pea shoots, soft boiled eggs, shredded carrots, and cucumbers. I had mine with soy sauce and tabasco sauce.

We had a snow day and the kids went sledding, then the little ones watched The Sound of Music. A cheery supper for a chilly day. Sometimes I quick pickle the vegetablesJump to Recipe, but I didn’t bother, and no one seemed to notice. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli?

It says ravioli, but I seem to have forgotten to buy any. I should have saved that cold squash.

 

5 from 1 vote
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Sausage rolls

Servings 36 rolls

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs sausage, loose or squeezed out of casings
  • 1 lg onion
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1.5 lbs puff pastry dough (1.5 packages)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • "Everything" seasoning, if you like

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil until it's slightly browned

  3. Put the raw, loose sausage in a bowl. Beat two of the eggs and add them to the bowl along with the cooked onions. Mix thoroughly.

  4. Cut the puff pastry into six long strips. On a floured surface, roll them out until they're somewhat thinner.

  5. Divide the sausage mixture into six portions and spoon it out into a long rows down the middle of each strip of puff pastry

  6. Form the sausage mixture into a tidier strip, leaving a margin of dough on each side.

  7. With a pastry brush, paint the dough margins on both sides.

  8. Fold the pastry up over the sausage on both sides, to form a long roll.

  9. Flip the roll over and lay it in a greased pan with the creased side down.

  10. Cut each roll into six smaller sections. (You can make them whatever size you like, really.) Leave a little space in between rolls on the pan.

  11. Brush each little roll with the rest of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with "everything" seasoning if you like.

  12. Bake for 20 minutes until the sausage is cooked and the rolls are golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

 

5 from 1 vote
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Dorito fried potato sticks

Ingredients

  • 12 small-to-medium potatoes, scrubbed, peel on
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 11 oz Doritos or your favorite chips, crushed into crumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Slice each potato into as thin slices as possible, and thread the slices onto skewers.

    If you're not going to cook them right away, you can keep them in water to keep the potatoes from turning brown. Try to fan the potatoes out so there is a little space in between but don't forget to leave enough room on the skewer so there's something to hold onto.

  2. Start heating the oil in a heavy pot. Prepare a pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

  3. In a shallow dish, mix together the flour, water, and crushed chips. It should be thin and drippy.

  4. Dip the potato skewers into the batter and spoon more batter over them, so the slices are thoroughly coated.

  5. When the oil is hot enough (you will see bubbles form steadily if you dip a wooden spoon in), dip the skewers into the hot oil. Cook for several minutes until they are crisp.

  6. Remove to a pan lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.