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

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

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

SATURDAY
Fancy chicken sandwiches, raw broccoli, fake Pringles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and — okay, here is where I went astray. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

There there, lemons. 

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

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

MONDAY
Pasta with meat sauce

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

TUESDAY
Pizza

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits

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

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

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

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

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

Jump to Recipe

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

THURSDAY
Leftover fried chicken, fries, corn

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

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

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips, salsa

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

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

moron biscuits

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 310: Back on my biryani

GOOD
MORN-ING
GIRLS-AND-BOYS!

{Good morn-ing, Miss El-lis!}

Sweet, sweet Miss Ellis, our music teacher who seemed to have descended from another era and remained untouched by all the very small town 1980’s public schooliness that swirled around her modestly clad ankles. She died relatively young, and so she still remains in my mind as a tall, gentle, slightly stooped, slightly pained-looking woman with a feathered bob, still wearing the plaid jumpers, clogs, and clunky folk jewelry that looked right to her while the rest of the world succumbed to Cyndi Lauper. She had us tootling into our recorders and scraping away at our lummi sticks while she labored away on her autoharp, teaching us folk songs from around the world against our will. And I still remember them, dozens of them. What a lovely woman. Good morning, Miss Ellis!

I guess it’s just fall, remembering time. It’s also cool weather, drizzly weather, and time to really start leaning into things that smell lovely and warm you up from the inside out. It helped that I didn’t have a car all week, so I was home to cook and take my time at it. Here’s what we had: 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Damien made this meal while I sweated and slaved over a hot computer, putting together an Instacart order. Nobody’s tired of Italian sandwiches yet. I’ll tell you, this has not been a great year for tomatoes, though. They look okay, but they just don’t taste like much. The basil is fine, though. 

Sandwiches are a fine time to practice your pepper grinding skills. Also don’t be afraid to really bend that elbow when you’re pouring the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Tips!

MONDAY
Carnitas, guacamole

Just another manic Monday, that’s my carnita day. You start out with some hunks of pork sprinkled heavily with salt, pepper, and oregano, and simmer them nicely in a ton of oil and some Coke, a few quartered oranges, some cinnamon sticks, and a few bay leaves.

Jump to Recipe

Give it plenty of time. 

Pull the extries out and keep cooking it until the meat just gives up. 

and then maybe cook it a little longer just to give it a little more texture and color. 

I like carnitas with pico de gallo and sometimes beans and rice, but this time I just made a bowl of guacamole. 

Jump to Recipe

It wasn’t the greatest, and I’m not sure why. I forgot to order tomatoes, so that was missing, but it also just had a kind of harsh taste. Maybe the onions were a little old? Not sure. I mean don’t get me wrong, I ate plenty. It just wasn’t the greatest. 

The carnitas were good. Sweet and a little smoky or something. Not smoky, I don’t know. I had plenty. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani, coconut mango sorta-sorbet

A new recipe! I could not have been more pleased with how this turned out. This is from Simply Recipes and I followed it exactly, except for extending the cooking time, which I was prepared for, because last time I made biryani, the rice was so underdone. Oh, I also used chicken broth instead of water, and I skipped the golden raisins, because I knew it would prejudice the kids against this meal. 

I started cooking in the morning. First I gathered the spices. Salt and pepper for the chicken, and then onion, fresh ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. 

Next, I accidentally dumped about 1/4 cup cardamom down the heating vent. This is not a bad way to begin the heating season, and I may sell this idea to Martha Stewart. I did manage to get the rest into the mortar and pestle and grind it up.

The next step is to prep your rice (I just used regular shorty rice, no fancy basmati or anything) and set that aside; and then slice the chicken thighs up along the bone, then season and fry them in oil. 

At this point, I realized that my almost lifelong horror of frying chicken is probably outdated and unnecessary. When I think of frying chicken, I think of a miserable, stressful catastrophe with hot oil spattered all over the place, billowing clouds of smoke, people screaming, the earth cracking open like a giant egg, species going extinct, I don’t know. Just a bad chicken scene in general. 

But that’s probably because last time I tried to fry chicken, I had a ton of little kids in the kitchen literally hanging off my legs, if not my boobies, while I fried. I probably had a terrible, thin, warped pan to cook with, and not enough oil, and no tongs, and maybe a broken stove, and I was probably in the habit of constantly telling myself what a rotten cook I was while I cooked; and supper was probably late, and everyone was upset, and the earth was probably cracking open like a giant egg. The odds, in short, were against me at the time. A bad chicken scene indeed. 

But things are different now! I have better equipment, I’m a much more confident and skilled cook, and I almost always cook alone. Or if someone comes in, I tell them to go away, and they do. 

What I’m saying is, I’m going to fry some chicken next week. I will probably still tell myself I’m a rotten cook, but, per my therapist, I will catch myself saying this. 

Anyway, back to the biryani. The next thing is to take the chicken out of the pan and fry up the onions and ginger in the oil. Lovely, lovely. Then you add in the turmeric and cardamom and it gets even better. Turmeric, as you know, is this deep golden hue, and you wonder if it’s going to stay so golden when you mix it in to other things, or if it will become diluted. And you will not be disappointed! Oh, I enjoyed myself so much.

Cook a bit more and then add your rinsed rice into the pan

and then add in the chicken, the broth, and the bay leaves and cinnamon. 

My friends, I had to physically force myself to put a lid on the pan. The aroma was straight from paradise and I did not want to be separated from it. 

So it just simmered for about 20 minutes, and when I took the lid off, this magic had occurred:

I don’t know what I expected, but I was just thrilled. Look at it! It’s biryani! 

According to the recipe, the biryani is now cooked. As I expected, though, it was cooked unevenly, and much of the rice was still crunchy. This is a very common issue with biryani, apparently. This is why I started in the morning. So I transferred the whole thing to the slow cooker and set it on low, and let it steam itself for the rest of the day. 

By dinner time, it was piping hot and thoroughly cooked, but not mushy or anything. 

I served it up with some toasted almonds and some chopped cilantro. 

They liked it! Just about everybody liked it. This dish has plenty of depth and cozy layers of flavor, but it’s not spicy at all. This recipe is most certainly going into the rotation, and I may even sneak some golden raisins in next time. So delicious. 

I love that I was able to make it all in the morning. It would make a great party dish. Tasted even better the next day. Wonderful stuff. 

Now for the sorta-sorbet. As I mentioned the other week, the Concord grape sorbet I made turned out so well, I thought a mango sorbet would be great to go with Indian food. The mangoes I ordered were nowhere near ripe, though, so I asked Damien to bring home some frozen mango chunks, and then quickly chose this recipe, which looked simple but promising enough. 

Foolish Simcha, ignoring the biggest red flag at all. She calls it a “sorbet dessert,” rather than just sorbet. This is classic recipe vacillation language, when you come out with something kind of gloppy and you don’t really know what it is, so you just straight up lie about it, and then call it “dessert” to cover your butt. 

Or maybe I screwed up, who knows. Anyway, you’re supposed to blend the mango, coconut milk, lime juice, honey, vanilla, and a little salt in a blender, and …. that’s it. 

In her world, this comes out of her blender the consistency of thick, creamy soft serve ice cream, and she scoops it into an adorable coconut-shaped ramekin and boops a mint leaf on top for the photo. 

In my world, it looked like someone ate a mango and then their stomachs changed their mind. 

I tried freezing it in separate little cups and everything. No dice. I mean it was fine. It tasted fine. It wasn’t any damn sorbet, though. I probably should have put it through my ice cream maker, but by this time, I was kind of mad, and decided not to, on principle. I comforted myself with more biryani. 

WEDNESDAY
Bacon, brussels sprouts, and eggs

Second dark, rainy day in a row. This is a most excellent, one-pan meal that comes together pretty quickly, and that just about everybody likes. I kifed this recipe from Damn Delicious, and I like Chungah, but she calls for four pieces of bacon, and what is that. I used four pounds of bacon, plus three pounds of brussels sprouts, and about fifteen eggs. It was too much bacon, but on the other hand, it was dark and rainy out

You make a nice little sauce with balsamic vinegar, honey, fresh garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you cook the bacon and brussels sprouts with this on a sheet pan

Then you crack some raw eggs carefully over the pan, sprinkle some red pepper flakes and freshly-grated parmesan cheese over that, and some more salt and pepper, and cook it several minutes longer, just until the whites set but the yolks are still wobbly.

And that’s it. So easy. Gosh, it’s delicious. The bacon and brussels sprouts soak up the sweet vingary garlicky sauce, and you can pick up forkfuls of this and dip it in the hot egg yolk and just have a wonderful time. 

Would have been great with some hot crusty bread or some hot pretzels. I think I served tortilla chips. 

THURSDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, rolls, pizza rolls, cake

Thursday was Clara’s birthday! I still owe her a decent cake and a real present, because the whole entire day was eaten up with the worthy project of BUYING A CAR. 

There is a whole long agonizing story about the old car, which is still unresolved, but I did miraculously find this lovely 2010 Honda Odyssey and now it’s mine. Well, I guess technically it belongs to the Service Credit Union, but in five short years it will be mine! I truly love it. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about Honda Odysseys, and this one has heated seats and a sunroof and it only smells a little bit weird, and only in a cat way, not in an automotive way.

Clara modestly asked for chicken soup with matzoh balls for her birthday, and I had the foresight to get the soup going the night before. The soup could not be simpler. It’s really a broth with a few garnishes, more than a soup. A big pot of water with chicken parts with bones, big pieces of carrots, onion, and celery, salt and pepper, and a big handful of fresh dill and fresh parsley. Simmer all day, then strain. Put back as much of the solid bits of chicken and vegetables as you like, but understand that it’s mostly for texture and looks, as the taste has gone into the broth. Let the broth cool and skim off the fat if there’s too much. Then reheat and use as you wish. (I wish to use it to cook matzoh balls.)

So on Thursday I got the matzoh ball dough going when I got home (it needs to chill for at least half an hour), then strained the soup, heated it up, and started cooking some pizza rolls I bought in a panic because what if there’s not enough food? Then I made about 50 matzoh balls and let them simmer and steam for about half an hour.

Served with some soft rolls because what if there’s not enough etc etc
I threw a little fresh dill and parsley on top of the soup, and it was very nice.

I don’t know if all of the matzoh balls were cooked properly, but all the ones I got were!

And then we had a STORE-BOUGHT CAKE. Because I may be an idiot, but even I know that if you get home after 6 PM, it is too late to start baking a cake. I still owe Clara a real cake. Maybe this weekend. 

FRIDAY
Land, I don’t know. I think we are having spaghetti. 

 

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • 1 can Coke or Mexican Coke
  • 1 cup or less vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

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. 

Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 295: Skinny doesn’t taste as good as EMPANADAS EMPANADAS EMPANADAS

I never got a food post up last week, I forget why. I didn’t want last week’s menu to get lost, though. Why? Because EMPANADAS, THAT’S WHY.

Or, to put it another way:

Knock knock.
Who’s th–
INTERRUPTING EMPANADAS.

Or, to put it another way:

Whatever you’re doing right now is the interruption, when what you really ought to be doing is shopping for empanada ingredients, making empanadas, eating empanadas, or making plans for the next time you will do one of those things. 

We did eat a few other things this week, so here’s the food post:

SATURDAY
I have no idea. This was 400 years ago.

SUNDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches

Boom.

I have also planted some tomato plants and some basil seeds as of Sunday, so I expect to have some wonderful home-grown basil to eat in about . . . never. I’m the world’s worst gardener and I have the lowest hopes ever for my garden. But I’ve had fun planting it.

I have tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, lots of various lettuce, one onion, one cucumber, mini pumpkins, lots of string beans, celery for some reason, oregano, basil, dill, catnip,and strawberries. A fence made of chicken wire and the frame of an old trampoline, and little cups of moth balls to deter the rabbits. The soil is a combination of old dried out sunflower stalks for drainage, old potting soil from last year, rich soil from the swamp, and some store-bought soil and compost. 

MONDAY
Gochujang pork chops, rice, sugar snap peas

I only had a little gochujang left, so I mixed it up with tons of honey and soy sauce and crushed up some garlic, and away we went. If you want a more precise recipe than that, here it is:

Jump to Recipe

I let the pork chops marinate all day and then broiled them in the oven.

This marinade is also wonderful if you cut the pork into strips and marinate it along with matchstick carrots and slices of onion, and then fry it all up on the stovetop. But it’s great on whole pork chops or ribs, too. Pot of rice, some raw sugar snap peas, and you have a great meal.

Someone should give the Koreans an award. 

TUESDAY
Empanadas, beans and rice, pineapple

Okay. Empanada day finally arrived. I had only ever had empanadas once in my life, but somehow got fixated on them, and my experience on Tuesday totally justified that fixation.

I will tell you in advance the four things I learned:

1. Goya sells empanada dough discs that are cheap and super easy to use, and they taste great. I tried the kinds with and without annatto and couldn’t taste much difference, but the ones with were a prettier color. 

2. You can deep fry them or bake them. Frying is not hard, as they hold together well, but baked is way easier. Baked tastes different from deep fried, but it’s honestly just as delicious. Hear me now: The harder way is not clearly superior. 

3. I realize I’m from New Hampshire, but it seems to me you can put whatever you want inside the dough and cook it and call it an empanada, and it will probably be delicious. 

4. If you have some spicy filling and some mild filling, and some plain dough and some dough with annatto, and you are going to bake some and fry some, and thus you have six, no, twelve different varieties of empanadas that you have to make in batches, and they look more or less the same from the outside, and even though it’s very hot and you’re standing over a pot of hot oil and you’re running late and you don’t know if anyone’s going to eat this food, but you think you can probably keep all the different varieties straight in your head if you pay attention . . . you know what, go ahead, you cockeyed optimist. 

Anyway, they were just delicious. I loved them so much.  Like at one point during the week, I got up out of bed to rummage around in the fridge and eat some cold empanadas, even though we’re going to an awards banquet and I’m trying to fit into this trashy dress I got from Shein. That’s how much I liked these empanadas. 

I followed this Argentinian Smitten Kitchen recipe (omitting the raisins). But when I tasted the finished product, it was astonishingly bland, even after I increased all the suggested spices. So I did half with the bland filling for the kids, and then I added a bunch of stuff to the rest: a bunch of chili powder, some red pepper flakes, salt, and quite a bit more cumin than I planned, because the top fell off the jar. 

It’s so easy. You grab a disk, you slap a spoonful of filling on,

flip it closed and crimp it with a fork,

give it a little egg wash, and bake it. I used a heaping tablespoon of filling for 5-inch wrappers. I kind of smooshed the scoop into an oblong, to make it more evenly distributed, but the wrapper holds up well and you could probably smoosh it after crimping, too.

I tried using a little dumpling press I have, but it was a bit too small and didn’t save any time. The dough was very easy to work with, though, and I made forty empanadas in a short time. As you can see, the dough discs are separated with squares of plastic film, so they separate easily. 

Here’s the inside. You can see that the baked ones, like this one, come out perfectly crisp and flaky.

The fried ones have a more blistered outside.

This would make great party food. I made the empanadas in the morning and baked and fried them before dinner.

I stacked the raw empanadas two deep until I was ready to use them, and they kept their shape very well (but I wouldn’t do that for longer than several hours, probably). I believe you can also freeze the raw or cooked empanadas. They held up in the refrigerator for several days very well.

Just an A+ all star food. I’m going to keep the wrappers on hand and use them when I’ve got leftover meat from tacos, carnitas, chili verde, pulled pork, or any number of things. I also want to try putting potatoes and/or cheese in there.

We also had fresh pineapple, and beans and rice. The beans and rice was delicious. I made it with rice, black beans, canned tomatoes with chili, fresh cilantro, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and cumin. It wasn’t that great, so I dumped in some salsa from a jar and then it was delicious. Lots of compliments. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I vaguely remember this. 

THURSDAY
Meatball subs

Just my regular meatball recipe,

Jump to Recipe

except I threw in a jar of green pesto and half a jar of red pesto, and it was very tasty. I ended up having a couple of meatballs for lunch, and then Damien and I went to the church for dinner, where they were having a meal presentation for the capital campaign. It’s a great parish and of course we’re going to pledge what we can, but I’m looking forward to the personalized letter where they squint at us and make a suggestion about what they think we, specifically, can afford. People tend to think we are probably tottering on destitution. Which we kind of are (some punk stole my debit card at the beach and went on an Amazon shopping spree right at the end of the month, which didn’t help!), but only in pockets, because we have weird priorities. Like I can finally buy myself a box of Ziplock bags (well, Great Value zipping locking bags) without breaking into hives, and we are renting a house on Cape Cod for a week this summer, but also I couldn’t find my toothbrush the other day, and it turned out one of my children had thrown it out, because it didn’t seem possible to her that that could be someone’s current toothbrush. A perfectly good toothbrush, that I’d grown very attached to over the years! Anyway, we’ll see what the letter says. My mother’s friend Eileen once donated some canned goods to her church’s Christmas food drive and then, on Christmas day, she opened her door to find on her porch a cheery basket containing, yes, those same exact cans. Supplies! Anyway, the church dinner was delicious, although my caesar salad had way more chicken in it than Damien’s. And that’s my meatball recipe.

FRIDAY
Spaghetti or something

Okay, now we’re all caught up! Got some nice summery recipes coming up for this week, so y’all come back!

And I’m reading over this post and realizing I told the interrupting empanada joke wrong. It’s supposed to be: 

Knock knock. 
Who’s there?
Interrupting empanada. 
Interrupting empanad–

and then there would be the sound an interrupting empanada would make. But I don’t know what that would be, which is, I suppose, why I got the joke wrong. You know it’s been a long time since anyone has asked me for advice on how to become a writer. Coincidence, I suppose. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Jump to Recipe

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

Jump to Recipe

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

Jump to Recipe

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,

Jump to Recipe

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.

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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.”

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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 

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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:
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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.

Jump to Recipe

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.