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. 294: Ya burnt!

Another Friday! We have arrived. We really launched our warm weather cooking this week. We also had our first “oh yes, that skunk is definitely rabid” situation, so I guess spring is officially fully here. I made some berry pies and only partially roont them. 

Here’s what we cooked and ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Indian food!

The kids had an assortment of frozen foods, and Damien and I went back to Royal Spice, where we had the same vegetarian appetizers as last time, because they were so appetizing, and then I had goat biryani and Damien had goat vindaloo. Superb. So delicious, I forgot to take pictures.  I need to get back to some Indian cooking. Gotta break in the new mortar and pestle Lucy got me for mother’s day! 

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, grilled corn, blueberry-strawberry pie 

We had our elderly neighbor over. I’ve been meaning to have her over, ever since we moved in, uhh, sixteen years ago. Listen, we don’t like to be pushy in these parts. We did have a nice time, although she is fairly deaf and the conversation kept circling back to a reliable topic, i.e. her roasting me for buying vegetable plants for the garden instead of starting seeds.  The dog thought she was absolutely incredible, and she thought the kids were absolutely amazing for swimming in the pool even though it was a little chilly. She dug up some of her bleeding hearts for me, and I gave her some pie. A good visit.

Damien cooked burgers and hot dogs and corn on the grill, always tasty. He cooks the corn right inside the husks, which makes it super sweet and juicy. You just peel and eat. I will admit, at least 50% of the reason I like this method is because it looks so dramatic. 

I made a couple of pies for dessert, and let me tell you, I was worried the whole time that the filling would turn out too runny, and guess what? It did. Not that I took any steps to prevent that from happening; I just worried about it. I sprinkled a good amount of corn starch in with the fruit and sugar, and let it sit for a while before baking; and I let it sit for a while after baking and before cutting. But it was still runny. I guess I should add even more corn starch? Anyone? It tasted great, just sweet enough, and they were very pretty. Just runny. 

I just mixed together strawberries and blueberries, sugar, a little salt, what seemed like a good amount of corn starch, and some fresh lemon juice. 

Here’s the unbaked pies:

and baked, with an egg wash and a little sugar on top, sadly somewhat burnt:

but still pretty

Here’s my recipe for pie crust, which is reliable and easy to work with.

Jump to Recipe

The main secret is to freeze the butter and grate it into the dry ingredients, and then just barely handle it after that.

We made some fresh whipped cream to top it with. Then the kids cleared the table and put the whipped cream away in the fridge. In a ziplock bag. I know that this is technically better than the other way they were likely to put it away (in an open bowl, with some old meatloaf on top), but somehow it didn’t feel better. 

MONDAY
Chicken caesar salad, grapes

A decent meal (if one that I’ve been eating a little too often for my liking in one form or another these days, in an effort to shed my Covid Ennui weight). Chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil, grilled and sliced, served on romaine lettuce with dressing from a bottle and freshly-grated parmesan cheese, and buttery homemade croutons. (FYI, the dressing and buttery croutons are not included in the Covid Ennui weight shedding plan, sadly.)

We did bat around the idea of getting ducks this year. Maybe next year. I do love duck eggs, and I would abase myself for homemade caesar salad dressing made with fresh duck egg yolks.

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Maybe next year! Quack.

TUESDAY
Honey mustard drumsticks, homemade tortilla chips, corn and bean salad

Sweet, colorful, mostly finger food. I thought this was going to be a super kid-pleaser meal. This despite that fact that I have met my kids.

Of course you can tell with an introduction like that that they mostly ate cereal. One proudly showed me the dusty can of chicken noodle soup she had discovered in the back of the cabinet. Oh well. I still thought it was a pleasant warm-weather meal.

I roasted about 24 drumsticks with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then rolled them around in a honey mustard sauce, made with probably a cup of honey, half a cup of mustard, and the juice of a large lemon. Then let them chill in the fridge for the rest of the day.

The corn salad was made with 3 ear’s worth of corn leftover from the cookout, a can of drained black beans, a can of diced tomatoes with chiles drained, the juice of one lime, half a red onion minced, a small bunch of chopped cilantro, and salt and pepper. I kept it bland so the kids would eat it, ho ho ho. 

The tortilla chips, I made by cutting flour tortillas into triangles, tossing them with oil, and sprinkling them heavily with Taijin powder a few times, then spreading them on a pan and baking them in a 350 oven for about half an hour, stirring them a few times so they wouldn’t stick. They don’t turn out completely crisp, but some of them are a little bit chewy.

Here is my helper, performing a crispness test:

You could probably avoid this by baking them longer at a lower temp, and giving them more space, but genuinely I like them a little chewy. I honestly have the palate of a sickly Victorian child. I want at least some of my foods to be milky and the consistency of tapioca. I also like more exciting foods, but my first love will always be the diet of an invalid. And now you know my secret.  

WEDNESDAY
Tacos, pineapple and papaya

I optimistically planned the menu this way, with tacos on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, thinking we’d have leftover corn salad and tortilla chips to go along with the tacos. Which we did, but (see previous day) nobody was happy about it. They were happy about the tacos, though, so there.

I sweetened the deal with some fresh pineapple and papaya. Boy, papaya sure is, it sure looks, boy. I feel like I ought to have someone else in the room when I cut it up, just so there’s no misunderstandings. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Something weird happened with this pizza. Maybe a weird batch of dough, I don’t know. Maybe I used too much sauce. It just clung to the pan and didn’t act right. It was okay, just kind of heavy. I also forgot to buy olives.

I made one plain, one pepperoni, one garlic and onion, and one ham and pineapple.

Plenty of fresh parmesan on all of them, which was nice. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

A couples Fridays ago was supposed to be mac and cheese, but I ran out of steam and just bought some Aldi pizzas. We have SO much stray cheese in the house, though, so I really want to use it up this time.

Oh, last Friday I did make the seafood lo mein

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with the mixed frozen seafood pouch from Aldi, and it turned out just great. It had all kinds of great stuff, mussels, scallops, a little octopus, wonderful. I threw a little fish sauce in there, plus some asparagus and some scallions, and it was a very tasty little meal. 

My wish now is to make empanadas. It just came into my head and I can’t think of a reason not to do it. I am thinking of buying the dough disks, if I can find them, so I can get the hang of it; and then if people like them, I can always try making my own dough next time. Any empanada advice? I think I have a press I bought to make dumplings, so I can probably use that. 

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.

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.

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. 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

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

Delicious meal, very easy, minimal cook time. 

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

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

THURSDAY
Nachos

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

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

FRIDAY
Saag paneer, naan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suppli (or Arancini)

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

Ingredients

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

To make suppli out of the risotto:

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

Instructions

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


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

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

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

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

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

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

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

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

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

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

 

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 286: Sauce on your face! You big disgrace!

Hey! Who’s fasting? Ready to suffer? Let’s look at some delicious food pictures. Here’s what we cooked and ate this week: 

SATURDAY
I think Aldi pizza? 

We went to see Moe in The Winter’s Tale and needed something fast to throw at kids. 

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil; dinosaur cake

Sunday was Elijah’s birthday. Another (alleged) adult in the house! He requested Damien’s wonderful breaded chicken cutlets with the provolone on top and a little secret basil tucked inside,

with a hot scoop of slightly spicy marinara sauce over it all to melt the cheese onto the chicken.

So good. 

I once again reassured Damien that this meal was totally worth the hours and hours he spends in the kitchen. I’m the only one who thinks this is funny, but I keep saying it anyway. 

Elijah was reminiscing about the dinosaur cake with a volcano and blue Jello gazing pool I once made him when he was little, so Clara decided to recreate him. 

And a very dinosaur birthday it was.

MONDAY
Rigatoni alla disgraziata

I knew there would be lots of leftover sauce and probably some leftover chicken, so I planned a new-to-us pasta dish for Monday to roll things over, and it was all very tasty.

Rigatona all disgraziata is not only the most delicious food you can have while still keeping meatless, it’s the most fun you can have pronouncing a dish while making reference to being wretched. That’s what the “disgraziata” part means: It’s “poor wretch” food, because it calls for mozzarella, but if you don’t have that, you can just use breadcrumbs. 

If you do have mozzarella, though, you . . . well, first you toast up the breadcrumbs in a little olive oil (I used breadcrumbs from a can, but I do want to try homemade a some point), then you brown the eggplant in a lot of olive oil,

then salt it and add in the sauce that your husband has made yesterday (he used this Deadspin recipe).

Cook and drain the rigatoni, add in the saucy eggplant, mix in the toasted breadcrumbs, throw in some shredded mozzarella, and warm it all up together, and sprinkle some parmesan on top.

Fabulous.

Here’s a more detailed recipe:
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I undercooked the eggplant a little bit, so it was a tiny bit too chewy, but this was still a monstrously delicious and filling meal, even without the addition of the leftover chicken, which I heated up and served on the side. Definitely going into the rotation for meatless meals. We also thought it would be nice if some crumbled Italian sausage happened to fall in. 

TUESDAY
Hot dogs, french fries, corn

I have no memory of Tuesday. Corrie has been packing cold, leftover hot dogs in her lunch all week, though, so I know it happened. 

WEDNESDAY
Garlic ginger chicken with mint; coconut rice; garlic string beans

My second foray into Indian cooking. This one was mildly disappointing, as the marinade for the chicken seemed exciting and tasted intense,

but the finished chicken came out much more mild. The ingredients are: Fresh ginger, fresh garlic, fresh cilantro and mint, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, turmeric (which I know I have somewhere, but I couldn’t find), and amchur, which is dried, unripe mango powder, and is super tart. 

Here is the recipe from Bon Apetit. I must warn you to save the recipe if you plan to use it, because they now limit the number of free views. 

You marinate the chicken, then brown it in oil, then cook it at a low temperature in a pan for ten minutes, then turn the heat off and let it finish cooking for fifteen minutes in its own steam. 

This worked well enough, and the chicken came out extremely moist and tender. But I could tell that it wasn’t as flavorful as I had hoped, so I cut it up and tossed it in the pan with the drippings, to coat all the pieces with as much flavor as possible.

And it was good! Just predominantly garlicky and gingery, and the rest of the flavor was harder to discern. I put plenty of fresh mint and cilantro on top to help it out. 

I had some misadventures with the rice, as well. I used this straightforward recipe and made a big pot of coconut basmati rice in the Instant Pot. The second time I got a burn message, I transferred it to the stove and finished it there, where it cooked somewhat unevenly. Not terrible, but I don’t know why I’m struggling so much with rice! Maybe I need to try another brand. I’ve been buying basmati rice at Aldi. Anyone know anything? Tell me it’s not my fault. 

For the string beans, I just drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, spread them in a shallow pan and shoved them up under a hot broiler until they were a little blistered.

Easy and tasty. 

It was a good meal, just a little tamer than I was expecting. Onward and upward. I still have a shelf overflowing with Indian spices and I’m not discouraged. 

THURSDAY
Regular tacos

None of my funny globalist tricks. No lemon grass or fish sauce or tree ears or balsamic reductions. I even got the crunchy shells that come in a box, which the kids think are a treat because I don’t usually get them because they’re noisy. Everyone was happy and loved me. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

And there’s plenty of rigatoni left over, too. IN THIS HOUSE [extremely lawn sign voice] we eat five-day-old rigatoni. 

We also add hot sauce and sometimes mustard to our otherwise pretty pedestrian mac and cheese. 

5 from 1 vote
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Rigatoni alla disgraziata

A hearty, meatless pasta dish with eggplant, breadcrumbs, and mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 2 lg eggplants with ends cut off, cut into one-inch pieces (skin on)
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, plus a little extra for frying bread crumbs
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • 3 lbs rigatoni
  • 6 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 lb mozzarella
  • grated parmesan for topping

Instructions

  1. In a very large skillet or pot, heat up a little olive oil and toast the bread crumbs until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

  2. Put the 3/4 cup of olive oil in the pan, heat it again, and add the cubed eggplant. Cook for several minutes, stirring often, until eggplant is soft and slightly golden. Salt to taste. Add in sauce and stir to combine and heat sauce through. Keep warm.

  3. In another pot, cook the rigatoni in salted water. Drain. Add the pasta to the eggplant and sauce mixture. Add in the toasted breadcrumbs and the shredded mozzarella. Stir to combine. Serve with grated parmesan on top.

 

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

Jump to Recipe

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. 282: In which I completely change my mind about Indian food

Not gonna lie: We ate like kings this week. Here’s what we had: 

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza for kids; Indian food for adults

The plan was for me and Damien to meet my brother on Saturday, and the kids would have Aldi pizza at home. But we had a bit of a storm and the roads were too bad for much travel. But the sacred words “Aldi pizza” had already been intoned and the wheels of deep mozzarella magic had already begun to turn, so there was nothing we could do. We had to leave some boxes of pizza on the table and go try the new Indian restaurant. 

Now, Damien and I . . . have never had Indian food before. Or, he has had lackluster, room temperature Indian food buffet at work parties a few times, and I have tried making butter chicken based on some hazy ingredients shouted at me by a rather aggressive Indian woman one time. So in practice, Damien and I have never had Indian food before, and didn’t especially want to start. But for some reason, I got it in my head we should try this little place, Royal Spice in Troy.

My dears. It was the best meal I’ve had in ages. Everything was completely CHARMING in my mouth. Just a delight. We had an appetizer platter with vegetable pakora, a big potato samosa, and some kind of little . . . thingies . . . round ones, and also some other ones, and then three kinds of sauce, a minty green savory one, some kind of bright red sweet pepper chutney, and then this amazing purplish sauce that turned out to be tamarind. I especially enjoyed the pakora. The insides reminded me of the spinach pies we make for passover, and the outsides were crisp and crinkly. Just lots of fun to eat, and with wonderful, lively flavors. 

Everything was so good! I ordered lamb korma with medium spice for my main dish, and Damien had full spice lamb biryani. 

I didn’t really know what korma was. It turned out to be big chunks of tender meat in a creamy, savory sauce, almost like a stew. The spice level was just right, just enough to wake up my face but not enough to be painful. It had a wonderful nutty, earthy, faintly sweet flavor, and came with a large portion of basmati rice. We also ordered two kinds of naan, which also came in generous portions.

The restaurant space is just a basic eatery, nothing special, but they were playing lively Indian music, the food was hot and fresh and plentiful, the prices were great, and the waitress was jolly and friendly and willing to talk about the food, even though the joint was jumping and she was doing everything herself. 

We each had a large bottle of Flying Horse lager, which is a mild, bready-tasting beer that was very refreshing with the spicy food.

They ran out and Damien ordered a Tag, which is also an Indian lager, but he said it wasn’t as good. 

Totally worth a visit if you’re anywhere in the area. We’re definitely going back to explore the menu some more. I’ve utterly changed my opinion of Indian food, and want to learn how to make pakora. Yay!

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, potato sticks

Damien made the roast beef, and very tender and juicy it was. This is his technique:

Sear the beef for a few minutes per side in olive oil and whole garlic cloves in a pot, then roast uncovered in a pan in the oven with the garlic at 325. Start checking for doneness at about 45 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes and then slice. Serve with the juice and the roasted garlic cloves. 

I had mine on a toasted roll with horseradish sauce, tomatoes, and provolone.

Every time we have provolone, I have to google “kinds of cheese,” because I cannot remember the word “provolone” on my own. I don’t understand why this is.  I love provolone. 

MONDAY
Clam chowder, ham and cheese sliders, veg and dip

I like clam chowder a lot, but hardly anyone else in this house likes it, or any other kind of chowder, or creamy soup, or soup in general. Since there’s nothing I can do in the face of such enormity [she said, using the word “enormity” correctly], I went ahead and made a big pot of clam chowder. The only regret I have is that I didn’t start it with a hunk of salt pork. It costs as much as a pound of good bacon, and I couldn’t quite face the experience of filling the house with bacon smells and then explaining over and over again that the smells were a lie and all we were having was this soup. So I just used butter, which is also good.

Clam chowder is so delicious. The recipe I cobbled together has celery, onion, and garlic in butter, white pepper, then chopped clams and clam juice, chicken stock, and flour and lots of half and half, and then some fresh parsley. Easy peasy, creamy and mild, full o’ clams. 

Jump to Recipe

I though I’d appease everyone by making some ham and cheese sliders. I found some recipes that call for making a sauce with dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce and all kinds of things, but I downgraded it all so they would be more willing to eat it. I just sliced a bunch of sweet Hawaiian rolls sideways, put in a layer of baby Swiss, then ham, then more Swiss on the bottom half, put the top roll slab back on, poured melted butter on top, sprinkled it with everything seasoning, covered it with tinfoil, let it sit and think for a while, and baked at 350 until the cheese was melted.

I honestly can’t remember if I put mustard in there or not. It doesn’t matter, because they decided the sandwiches “smelled weird” and didn’t eat them. The crumbs! The absolute crumbs. This is primo kid food, bright yellow and pink, cute little buttery mini sandwiches, an adorable little plate, but no.

Oh well. 

I also put out carrots and peppers and dip. Probably they ate dip for supper, and oyster crackers. The crumbs.

TUESDAY
Burgers and chips

Tuesday was supposed to be bo ssam day, but I forgot how early you need to get it started, so I instead started marinating the bo ssam on Tuesday, and made burgers for supper. No one complained. 

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, fruit salad, crunchy rice rolls

Just an excellent meal. I forgot to even finish following the recipe, and it ended up being just fatty pork that had been sitting with salt and sugar for 24 hours, then cooking uncovered in a low oven for another six hours, and that’s it. Here was my reward:

It was FABULOUS. 

I couldn’t find the doenjang that I’m pretty sure is in the fridge somewhere, and they definitely didn’t have any in the stores, so I had to skip making the amazing spicy, nutty dipping sauce that goes along with the meat. So I just grabbed a bottle of sesame shoyu sauce for dipping.

I made a big pot of rice and a big bowl of fruit salad (pineapple, strawberries, and grapes), and we also had some of those sweet crunchy rice rolls. I served lettuce leaves for rolling up the meat in, and oh boy, it was just fantastic. There’s enough salt and sugar in this meat to keep you going all week. Totally worth it. The meat gets a dark, caramelized crust on the outside, and clinging to it are these wonderfully moist, tender shreds of meat that just fall apart.

You can dip the meat in sauce and wrap it up in lettuce with a little rice, or just eat everything separately. The strawberry, in particular, made a great complement to the salty, savory meat. It’s important to serve something mellow and unchallenging to go with the meat, which is very delicious but very loud in flavor.

Altogether a wonderful, gratifying meal, lots of fun to eat. Corrie packed a little sandwich bag of bo ssam in her lunch, and when they asked her (for the 100th day of school) what kind of food she could eat 100 of, she wrote “bo ssam.” Crumb status revoked!

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and party mix for kids; Asian food for adults

Damien and I snucked away for a little early Valentine’s Day overnight getaway. 

For dinner, we tried Kogetsu in Peterborough, which is decorated like an Asian fever dream, with giant picture windows looking out over a waterfall. We had egg rolls and steamed pork dumplings in peanut sauce, and I ordered the nabe yaki udon, which is a noodle soup with an impressive assortment of strange and delicious mushrooms, vegetables, and proteins lurking in the broth, plus a poached egg and two enormous tempura shrimp.

The broth was oddly bland, but I liked it anyway. 

Then we went back to the inn. Last time we visited this inn, I was extremely pregnant with Irene, and you know what? Even when you’re not heavily pregnant, which I am not, it’s still super hard to get out of a hot tub. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. 

Breakfast was lovely. They cook everything from scratch to order, and much of their food is locally sourced. I had an English muffin with a poached egg and roasted tomato, with bacon and toasted whole wheat bread with raspberry jam. 

They also have a wonderful, elderly dog who limps around, collapsing into various sunbathing spots. The dog and the cheerful innkeepers were the only other people in the whole place. The other thing I like about this place is that it’s not haunted. I don’t mean to be a weirdo, but most inns and hotels are at least semi haunted. If you get up in the middle of the night, you will feel the misery and oppression in the air and in the hallways, presumably because sad and bad things have happened there. Take it or leave it, it’s just what I think. I have been in a lot of hotels! This one just had a Paul Revere bell ringing out the hours, and also a bird nest in the porch outside the window. I really love New Hampshire. We’re having a little thaw right now. It’s in the high 40’s, the puddles are glittering, there’s a little drip-drip-drip action going, and it feels like spring is something that might actually show up at some point. A good day. 

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, hash browns,  OJ

This meal is an excuse to serve orange juice, which I cannot seem to shift off the “unutterably expensive; for treats only” list in my brain. 

To make french toast casserole, tear up whatever stale or leftover bread you have in the house and heap it in a buttered casserole dish. Make enough egg and milk mixture to saturate the bread, and pour it over the bread pieces. You can add sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to the mixture before pouring it out, if you like. Thin slices of apple is nice, as well. Dot with butter, and sprinkle with a little more sugar and cinnamon to make a nice crust. Bake at 35o until the egg is set. Serve in wedges. 

Here’s an old picture, back from when the sun would shine and we had stone fruits, oh my.

We survived the 100th day of school (Corrie had 100 bells on her shirt, and Benny dressed up as a tortoise, because tortoises live to be 100? I don’t know) and now we just have to make valentines for Monday. I bought a bunch of silicone molds (hearts, fancy hearts, roses, and dinosaurs) from Walmart, and we’re going to melt Jolly Ranchers into them and call it fancy. I have popped 20 bags of popcorn for the school dance tonight, and Irene’s gorilla mask has arrived in the mail (also for the school dance tonight). I’m sitting here kind of befuddled because I ate breakfast today, which I don’t normally do, and I went away on a Thursday, which I don’t normally do, and so my stomach and my brain have no idea what time of day or what day of the week it is. I will probably fall asleep at adoration. Will pray for you cheese bags before I do. 

New England clam chowder (without bacon)

You can certainly add bacon or fat back if you want! Rather than starting with butter, fry up a few pieces of meat first, take the meat out and break it up, fry the vegetables in the fat, and add the meat back in later.

Ingredients

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 16 oz clam juice
  • 4 cup water
  • 6 tsp chicken bouillon powder (to make a concentrated broth)
  • 4 small potatoes, diced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 3 6.5-oz cans of chopped clams
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1 cup flour
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter. Sauté the celery and onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two longer. Stir in the white pepper.

  2. Add in the clam juice, the water with bouillon in it, the potatoes, and the clams, undrained. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20. minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

  3. In a small bowl, slowly whisk the half and half into the flour, then add this mixture gradually into the pot until blended.

  4. Heat through. Continue to cook at a low temperature to cook out the flour taste. If the chowder is too thick, add more chicken broth.

  5. Add chopped fresh parsley before serving if you like. Serve with oyster crackers.

What’s for supper? Vol. 143: Septemberbot

Ah, September, the time of year when you could easily replace me with a robot that does two things: Driving people places, and complaining about driving people places. The deluxe version of Simchabot also stares wistfully at the silvery, dry grasses at the side of the road and feels bad about everything dying. We did have food, but mainly the food of sadness, rabbit, mainly the food of sadness.

SATURDAY
BLTs

It seems like we would have had a special reason for making BLTs, which are generally classified as party or treat food, but hell if I can remember what was going on Saturday. The only bit of information I can offer is that we have sworn off Aldi bacon, which barely has a taste at all.

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas with lime crema; tortilla chips

Do you know, it’s hard to take interesting pictures of quesadillas? They are so flat.

All the pictures this week are pretty sub-par, as supper kept getting pushed back until after the sun was down, and I haven’t figure out how to take pretty food pics with artificial light. The quesadillas were tasty, though, if not photogenic.

I put the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot with some water on high pressure for eight minutes, then I shredded it and mixed in some chili lime powder. We had our quesadillas with your choice of cheddar cheese, chicken, chopped scallions, and jalapeno slices from a jar.

We also had lime crema, which is fine crema.

It’s just sour cream with some lime zest and juice, plus salt and garlic, but it elevates meals like you wouldn’t believe. (recipe card below) And yes, I reserved some lime zest for garnish, because I am a golden god.

MONDAY
Butter chicken, mashed potatoes, salad

This week’s installment from Kyra’s Bag o’ Peculiar Foods. I had three packets of butter chicken curry paste

and was determined to try butter chicken, which I’ve heard described as an Indian food entry meal. (Of course I like naan, but you can’t be human and not like naan, so that doesn’t count.)

So. I tried butter chicken. To be fair, I did mess up the recipe. I cooked the chicken in oil, and then added the butter later, after asking myself, “Well, if it’s called ‘butter chicken,’ then when does the butter –oh.” I threw it all together and then put it in the slow cooker all day, rather than simmering it. And it turned out we were out of rice, so I made some last-minute mashed potatoes for a side, instead.

Buttttt, despite all these deviations, I didn’t like it for completely other reasons — specifically, curry reasons. The seasoning came from the pouch, so whatever else I screwed up, the taste is the taste, and I guess I just don’t like curry? It tastes like a dessert taste to me, and I just can’t get it to make sense with meat dishes.  I feel guilty about this just in case an hour of the day should pass without me feeling guilty about something.

However, a couple friends recommended a recipe for quickie, yeastless naan, which I believe I will try. Because I (human) do like naan!

Oh, also, I was sure most of the kids wouldn’t like the curry, so I made up a batch of pan-fried chicken. I dredged it in flour and everything. I put it in the fridge and then, half an hour before dinner, I put it back in the oven to warm up. But, rabbit, I did not turn that oven on. Also, I hadn’t cooked the chicken all the way through, and Irene took a big bite of raw meat and promptly threw up. Can’t blame the Indians for that, I suppose.

TUESDAY
Fish tacos

Tortillas with sour cream (sadly, the lime crema had all been lapped up), finely shredded cabbage, avocado slices, fresh lime, cilantro, and of course fish sticks. I also got some lime chipotle salsa from Aldi, and it was pretty good, although a little mushier than I like.

Some day I will make this meal with fresh, pan fried fish, but not today, rabbit. Not today.

WEDNESDAY
Kielbasa, red potatoes, sweet peppers, and onions with mustard sauce

This meal was easy and attractive, but a little low on flavor, because I put all my effort into hacking things up and none into sprinkling things on. It was a bunch of kielbasa, red potatoes, onions, and sweet peppers, chunked them on a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and whatnot. Then I put it under the broiler and forgot about it until it was almost too late.

At the last minute, I put together a dressing that saved it (or would have, if I had made enough). Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and minced garlic. It looked like tarry sludge, but had a good, zippy flavor.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and that is seriously it.

One of the kids asked me why I didn’t make anything else, and I didn’t even know. I remember thinking, “. . . .eggs? . . . . ” at some point mid-morning, but that’s as far as it got. I assume they all eat vegetables at school or something, so that’s fine.

FRIDAY
Pasta primavera and fresh bread

I bought some frozen bread dough which is defrosting right now, because I told myself ninety-three times during the week that I was probably going to forget to defrost it. I have made pasta primavera before, but can’t seem to find the recipe. Basically you just want pasta with a light cream sauce, plenty of parmesan and garlic, and an assortment of fresh vegetables.  I have no intention of blanching things and then putting them in and out of ice water. Remember, yesterday it was too hard to bring hard boiled eggs from potentiality to actuality. We keeps the expectations low, precious.

Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.