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!
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.
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.
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.
Pork ribs, suppli
Lucy wanted to try her hand at making suppli, and after I warned her that it was a fairly complex recipe with several steps,
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especially if you’re planning to make the risotto on the stovetop and all, darn it if she didn’t go ahead and make the best suppli I’ve ever had.
Look how lovely they turned out, outside:
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.
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 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.
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.
8 + 8
finely chopped onions
dry white wine
grated parmesan cheese
To make suppli out of the 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)
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.
This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!
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.
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.
egg yolks for brushing on top
any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.
Mix together filling ingredients.
Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate.
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.
Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends.
Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones.
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.
Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.