It really was highly delicious, and I don’t just mean the sight of my husband in an apron.
I don’t know how we got along all these years without cheap parmesan wedges from Aldi, to be shaved directly over one’s steaming plate of pasta.
MONDAY Ham, mashed potatoes, string beans with caramelized pecans
The children were jonesing for their favorite meal, ham, peas, and mashed potatoes. I’m not crazy about ham, but it sure is easy, especially if you buy a fully-cooked one and cut it up first, then heat it up. And that’s my secret. Oh, and I had some of that amazing stone ground mustard with the ham.
It’s sweet and tasty and makes ham much more interesting. It has these weird little popping bits in it that I guess are mustard seeds? I don’t know, but it’s super fun to eat.
I thought we had frozen peas, but it turned out I only had some bag of fresh string beans, alas.
Right before dinner, I got the idea to spiff them up a little bit. (It was a lot of steps, but they were all fast, easy steps.) You boil the string beans in salty water and then dunk them in ice water to stop the cooking, and dry them off. Melt a bunch of butter and brown sugar in a pan, toast the nuts in the oven, then caramelize the nuts in the butter and sugar. Then put the string beans into the butter-sugar-nut mixture and heat it all up. There’s a recipe, but that’s basically all it is (I assume. I skimmed, I skimmed.)
Everyone liked them, and they ate a lot more vegetables than they would have if I hadn’t essentially made them into candy, let me assure you [nods wisely with sugar trickling out of ears].
TUESDAY French onion soup and cheesy ranch pull-apart bread with bacon
This is where the week really started to get away from me. And honestly, I’m thinking back to the conversation I was having with my husband about how my weight loss just isn’t coming along at the pace I would like, and, well, okay, I hear it. Anyway, you fry up three pounds of bacon, set them aside to cool, melt two sticks of butter and add a packet or two of Ranch dressing seasoning and mix well. Cut up three sturdy loaves of bread in a criss-cross pattern, leaving the bottom intact so it holds together. Shred two or three 8-ounce blocks of cheddar cheese. Stuff the cheese and bacon down into the cuts in the bread, and then pour the ranch butter all over the loaves.
Preheat the oven, wrap the loaves in tin foil, and bake for 15 minutes or so. Then unwrap them and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is a little toasted. Serve immediately, before you come to your senses.
I also made a nice pot of simple french onion soup using this very basic recipe.
I think I actually increased the onions and butter, decreased the water, and increased the wine, because, I don’t know, it was raining. I had my soup with plenty of fresh parmesan on top. I don’t bother baking the parmesan on, because I’m hungry.
A very fine meal. Possibly more butter than is strictly recommended for a single human to consume in one sitting. Better lie down.
Not gonna lie, these were fairly lousy nachos. I was just very distracted. One pan was chips, plain ground beef, and cheese, and one pan was chips, ground beef with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and cheese. I hurled some sour cream and salsa at the table and went to lie down.
You roll or stretch the dough into a round about 10 inches wide, then roll the two ends toward the middle, like a scroll. Pinch the rolled ends together on each side to make a gondola shape, then stuff the inside with a cheese mixture (I used ricotta, mozzarella, and feta). Brush with egg wash, bake for a while, then make a little well, crack an egg into it, and bake a little longer until the white is set but the yolk is still a little loose.
Top with fresh parsley and some red pepper flakes and freshly-ground sea salt.
Mother of pearl, these were tasty. The cheese stuffing is fluffy and mild and the whole thing is just so fragrant and eggy and cozy. I fried up a bunch of breakfast sausage to go with it, and it was a delightfully filling meal. Probably the perfect November food.
Supposed to be homemade pizza, which I felt a little sheepish about since we’d already had so many bread and cheese meals already, but I forgot to take the dough out in time. I was feeling fairly floppy anyway, and fell asleep in the adoration chapel, and we’re going to see a kid in a play tonight, so Damien made the call to Domino’s, and lo, it was a good call.
The only other thing I have to add is that I turned my back for one minute and somebody did this to my menu planning board.
I want it on the record that not once, not even during Lent, did I serve rat on a stick. Gruel, maybe.
Raise your hand if you’ve been falling asleep on the couch every night. Not that hand, you’re still holding a glass of wine! Oh well, those were old pants anyway.
Before we go any further, here is some Creedence, with Keep On Chooglin’.
Good for any old time, but especially when you have set yourself up to make 160 little rugelach and every time someone comes into the kitchen, they comment that you just keep on rugelin’, which is true.
Here’s what else we ate this week:
SATURDAY Loaded baked potatoes, onion soup
I made this meal mainly so I could stop wondering how this meal would go over, even though I knew the answer would be: Okay. I baked a bunch of giant potatoes and set them out with bacon, sour cream, french onion dip, chili, cheese, scallions, and I forget what else. And I made a pot of onion soup just so they couldn’t say I only fed them potatoes for supper.
I honestly believe this was just as filling and interesting as any meal I make, but some people just couldn’t get past the mental roadblock of having a side dish as a main dish. So now I can cross that off my “how to be a monster” list, and get back to serving real meals of meat and potato, rather than fake meals of potato and meat.
They didn’t really complain, but they definitely pondered and discussed for longer than absolutely necessary. Some people don’t remember when the dinner we could afford was oatmeal soup, and it shows! Come to think of it, I don’t really have a problem with that.
I made it in the Instant Pot just to keep it out of the way, which is legitimately handy sometimes, but there was no other advantage to using the IP instead of the stove to caramelize onions, despite what lies people may tell. You have to let the pot come to pressure, then cook the onions, then release the pressure, and then finish them up on sauté anyway, so it takes exactly as long. I guess there is a little less stirring, but it definitely isn’t a time saver.
I had mine with rice, meat, guacamole, beans and tomatoes with chili peppers, cilantro, sour cream, fresh lime, and corn chips, and I scooped up some of the sauce from the meat pan and gave everything an extra little gravy baptism, mmmmm hmmmmm.
Somehow I’ve gone most of my life without using Worcestershire sauce, and I did not associate it with Mexican food at all, probably because of the. name. When you live in rural NH, you have to figure these things out the hard way (by reading recipes on the internet). Well, I’m a big fan now! Not quite up to putting it on my pizza, but a fan nonetheless.
The guacamole was definitely B grade guacamole. Canned tomatoes, garlic powder instead of fresh, canned jalapeños instead of fresh, and the avocados were overripe, so I had to mash them pretty hard, rather than leaving some nice chunks. Here’s my recipe for decent guac:
Monday was shopping day, so we needed something fast and easy. I used to buy cheapo hot dogs and then a few Hebrew National or something yummier for people who cared. Then I discovered people who care prefer natural casing hot dogs to Hebrew National, so I bought a few of those. Then more people started caring, so I started buying more natural casing hot dogs. But I had it in my head that there needed to be an alternative hot dog, so now I buy a big box of natural casing hot dogs plus a small package of terrible cheap weenies. A few people asked me why, and I had to admit that I did not know.
TUESDAY Ravioli, chocolate strawberries
Tuesday was Benny’s birthday. We’re having an at-home party on Saturday, but she really wanted to do some special stuff on the actual day, so she chose dinner (frozen ravioli, can do) and we made chocolate-dipped strawberries. Actually I made one, and then I left the room. This is generally the best way to ensure the kids have a fun kitchen experience.
She opened one of her presents, Moe made her french toast, and then we played hooky from virtual school and got Wendy’s for lunch, which we attempted to eat on the bridge by the waterfall
but it turned out it’s December, so we finished our meal in the heated car. Which is where I found out that she thought a Baconator was pronounced “buh-CON-ah-torr,” like “matador,” so that was a little present for me, too.
Then we went to Walmart and bought a new zipper pull for her jacket and a Mickey Mouse balloon, and then Dora stopped by the house with a present of a stack of books she liked when she was that age. Benny ended up having a wonderful day, because she is a wonderful kid.
WEDNESDAY Chicken thighs with chickpeas
This is one of my favorite meals. I got up and got the chicken thighs marinating in the yogurt marinade pretty early, and also got the yogurt dipping sauce and the onion salad made; so when it was time to eat, all I had to do was open a bunch of cans of chickpeas and throw it all on a pan to cook.
If you like shawarma, you will probably like this meal. If you like crispy, toothsome chicken skin, you will adore this meal.
We had plenty of pita bread and I was so happy, tearing off bits and dunking it in the yogurt sauce and scooping up a little bright, lemony red onion and cilantro. The chicken just falls off the bone, and the salty chickpeas are a little chompy on the outside and tender and mealy on the inside. So good. The yogurt sauce came out so garlicky, my breath was glowing in the dark.
THURSDAY Salad with chicken
Bit of a lackluster meal. I was planning a hearty, harvest-y salad, like this one, maybe with candied yams on the side, but I ended up just roasting some chicken breast and serving it on greens with dried cranberries and crumbled goat cheese. Oh, I did make a big batch of croutons from our vast collection of stale rolls and hot dog buns.
I didn’t even end up eating dinner, because I got caught up in a sudden baking frenzy. I made rum balls and, because it was the first night of Chanukah, three kinds of rugelach.
Let me tell you about rugelach. To me, they taste normal and cozy when the bottoms are absolutely burnt to hell, like this:
This is because, no matter how thinly you spread the filling on the dough, it oozes out, pools around the pastry, and then burns. Normal, but so frustrating.
I always say I hate baking, but really what I hate is feeling stupid, and baking almost always makes me feel stupid. But this one time, I felt smart! I made a big batch of rugelach dough, enough for eight batches, and I kept on experimenting until I figured out how to get golden brown rugelach without a burned bottom.
You line a pan with parchment paper to contain the mess, but you put a baking rack on top of that, spray it with cooking spray, and bake the rugelach on the rack, and then the filling still oozes out, but it oozes onto the parchment paper below
leaving your rugelach unburnt!
Then you move the rugelach off the rack onto a lined tray as soon as they come out of the oven. If you wait, they will just cement themselves to the rack, and they won’t burn, but the bottoms will get torn up. I find a butter knife is the best tool for this job, and you will absolutely burn your fingers, oh well.
I made three kinds: Apricot walnut (my favorite)
blueberry, which for some reason doesn’t brown up as much,
Lovely. This recipe is labor intensive, but requires very little skill. The dough comes out light and tender, but it’s much, much easier than pie crust or other kinds of pastry dough. It holds together very well and doesn’t need a light touch. It’s just butter, cream cheese, and flour, and then you roll it in tons of sugar. Spread your filling on, cut it in triangles, roll them up, and bake, doop! Here’s the recipe again:
Some fruit fillings ooze more than others, but you won’t really know until you try them. I really love rugelach. They are so cute and nice, and they freeze well, too, so you can make a bunch and give them out as gifts.
Oh, the rum balls, I made using this recipe, but I used chocolate wafers rather than vanilla ones, because that’s what they had at Aldi. I can’t taste them because migraine, but the kids said they were good. I made some rolled in powdered sugar and some rolled in little candy balls. Wishing I had done some in finely-chopped nuts, but I have no idea where I put the nuts.
And don’t you forget it! I got some olives and artichoke hearts and we’ll just have to see what’s nessa.
Okay, here are the recipe cards! We made it through another week, and good for us.
Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.
Basic chocolate dip for just about anything. The shortening makes it smoother and helps it harden into a shell, rather than remaining gooey. Do not use Aldi chocolate chips! They melt very badly. Also be sure to dry strawberries thoroughly, or the chocolate won't adhere well.
1lbstrawberries, washed and dried thoroughly
In the microwave or the top pot of a double boiler, heat the chocolate chips and shortening until they are melted, stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth.
Grasping the strawberries by the leaves, dip them in the melted chocolate and shake them gently to get excess chocolate off.
Lay them on a tray covered with wax paper or parchment paper and let them harden in a cool spot for an hour. If you leave them in the refrigerator for more than a day, the chocolate will begin to separate slightly from the strawberry.
Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce
A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant.
32ozfull fat yogurt, preferably Greek
3 Tbspcumin, divided
salt and pepper
2red onions, sliced thinly
2red onionssliced thinly
salt and pepper
abunchfresh cilantro, chopped
32ozGreek yogurt for dipping sauce
3clovesgarlic, minced or crushed
Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours.
About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.
Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.
Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.
The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.
While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
-Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.
-Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro.
-Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
These are tender little pastries for Chanukah or any time. Use whatever kind of filling you like: Jams, preserves, cinnamon sugar, nutella, etc. These are time consuming, but don't take much skill, and they freeze well, so they make pretty little gifts.
1cup or moresugar, for rolling
1/4-1/2cuppreserves or other filling
1/4-1/2cupfinely chopped nuts (optional)
In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the flour and keep mixing until smooth. You can do this by hand, but it will take a while! The dough should be fairly stiff and not sticky when it's done.
Divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Prepare a pan by lining it with parchment paper, then spraying a baking rack and putting the rack on the parchment paper. Line a second pan with parchment paper, to which you will remove the rugelach when they come out of the oven.
Use the sugar to cover your work space, and use a rolling pin to roll a ball of dough into a round shape the size of a large plate. It should be thin enough to flap a bit when you give it a shake. If your rolling pin sticks, sprinkle more sugar on. You can turn the dough over to make sure both sides get sugared. It doesn't have to be perfectly round, as it will be cut into pieces.
Spread the jam or other filling over the dough, leaving an open space in the middle. If you're adding nuts, sprinkle them over the filling.
Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 16-20 triangles.
Roll each triangle up from the outside in. Place each rolled rugelach on the sprayed baking rack on the pan, with the skinny point down. They puff up a bit, so leave the space of one rugelach in between.
Repeat for each ball of dough.
Bake for ten minutes. If the dough isn't golden brown, give it another two minutes. These go from perfect to burnt very quickly, so be alert.
When they bake, the filling will ooze out and pool and burn on the parchment paper, but the rugelach will not burn.
When the rugelach come out of the oven, immediately use a butter knife to transfer them to another pan or rack to cool.
Once they are cool, they can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer for weeks without harm.
How is it Friday already? I guess I spent the week driving, sleeping, and wheezing. And making Halloween costumes, and cooking. I tried Instacart again and it’s definitely growing on me. My one complaint is that the default tip is 5%. Five percent! That’s just gross. I know you can raise it, and I do, but what the heck, Instacart. Why would you make that seem normal? Shopping is hard work.
Here’s what we had this week. A couple new recipes and a lot of easy comfort food.
Show me a person who doesn’t love BLTs and I’ll happily eat his BLT.
SUNDAY Chinese pork ribs, vegetable lo mein
The most elaborate meal of the week. Damien marinated some pork ribs in this lovely Chinese sauce. I didn’t get a great pic of the cooked ribs, but here they are, waiting to be cooked. Lovely thick ribs. I’ll get his recipe when he gets back from his run.
Next time, we’ll make this outside on the grill, but it felt like an oven broiling kind of day.
We’ve been doinga lot of Asian-stylemeals lately, but are pretty, pretty tired of rice, so I poked around a bit and it turns out a simple lo mein (which means “stirred noodles”) is super easy and delicious.
I made an absolute bare bones sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar, boiled some noodles, cooked the veg, deglazed with mirin, and added the noodles and sauce, and that’s it.
It was perfect, just like good take-out. I used red and yellow bell peppers, red onion, and sugar snap peas, and maybe garlic, I forget. The noodles darkened quite a bit from the sauce as I continued cooking it. Next time I may add some fish sauce or hoisin sauce or oyster sauce or fresh ginger or something, but truly, truly I may not. This was so easy and flavorful and just about the whole family enjoyed it, and what kind of fool would mess with that?
The answer, of course, is my kind of fool. I always mess with things. But at least we’ll have this one happy noodle memory.
MONDAY Buffalo chicken on salad
Salad greens, buffalo chicken from frozen, blue cheese, and crunchy onions from a can, with a drizzle of blue cheese dressing. You can addd red onion and shredded carrot and tomato, but you have my permission to not.
TUESDAY Bagel, egg, sausage, cheese sandwiches and OJ
Most of the kids want an egg or two fried in plenty of butter and not flipped. I firm up the yolk a little bit by covering the pan for a few minutes toward the end. What kind of egg is that? Sunny side up? It’s even better if you use tons of butter and spoon the hot butter over the yolk as it cooks, but it felt like too much work. Then I went and overcooked mine anyway, oh well.
I had mine with a little hot sauce, and I chose American cheese, because I like American cheese.
Basic basic. Tortilla chips, seasoned ground beef, and shredded cheese. One pan with jalapeños, one without. I also heated up a can of refried beans and a bag of frozen corn, and they were surprisingly popular. I sprinkled a little chili lime powder on top; olé.
We also had salsa and the small amount of sour cream that didn’t get frozen. If anyone knows a use for frozen sour cream, I’d be glad to know it. You can thaw it out, but it gets all grainy and horrible. And here I made an entirely gratuitous joke about people who have been in academia too long, but I took it out because fratelli tutti or whatever. Again I say to you, olé.
THURSDAY Bacon tomato bisque, challah
I put this one effortful meal on the menu and kept putting it off until there was only one day left to make it, and of course the weather turned warm and muggy. Oh well! It’s a wonderful, hearty soup, even with canned tomatoes.
It looked pretty, but I guess it needs more baking time, because it was still quite damp on the inside. And you can see I let it rise too much for the second rising, and it got kind of blurry, instead of being the plump, pull-apart rosette I was imagining.
Still, hot eggy bread, mmmm. I did alter the recipe a tiny bit by adding an extra half teaspoon of salt and using olive oil instead of canola oil, and that helped the flavor a lot.
With these challahs I finally got through my entire 25-pound pandemic bag of flour, and now I just have my second 25-pound pandemic bag of flour to use. I know some of you go through that amount of flour every other week, but I do not. I love baking about as much as I love paper machéing: I do it if because there is a still, small voice inside me insisting that this is the only way my family will know I love them, even though my actual family with the big, loud voice is begging me to just buy the thing at the store. I yam what I yam.
FRIDAY French onion soup, roast mushrooms, baguettes, and tuna
Ooh, looks like I never made a recipe card for my very simple french onion soup. Here’s a photo of onion soup past, and here’s the card:
I’m going to try my hardest to make only a small pot of soup. We still have lots of other soup left over from yesterday, and the refrigerator situation is a travesty, just a travesty. (And yes, this is why the sour cream keeps getting frozen. It’s horribly crowded in there, and refrigerator needs proper air circulation. Well, we all have needs, so GET IN LINE, FRIGIDAIRE.)
I think Damien is going to make the roast mushroom dish. We haven’t had it in ages and it’s sooooo savory and yummy. It’s one of Burneko’s Deadspin recipes. Dishes with capers in them can go either way, but this one is absolutely smashing.
And there will be some tuna for the people who are gonna cry about capers.
Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.
Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.
Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.
With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.
Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man.
poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping(optional)
corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking
In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.
In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.
(If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)
Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.
Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.
Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.
Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.
Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.
“What’s for supper” was this thing
I started on a whim.
I thought it would be nice to take
A weekly break from grim
And ghastly stories all about
The Church and sex and stuff,
And write, instead, about meat loaf
And peanut butter fluff.
Well . . .
Let the happy news be thundered:
“What’s for supper” turns two hunderd.
BURGERS AND CHIPS
“Burgers and chips,” the blackboard says.
So I guess that’s what we had.
Burgers and chips are always good.
They really can’t be bad.
I didn’t take a picture, though.
You know what burgers look like, bro.
SUNDAY PEPPERONCINI BEEF SANDWICHES, MEYER LEMON MERINGUE PIE
Pepperoncini beef is great
Chunk it in the crock pot, then you wait.
Shred the meat and serve on rolls,
Dish some nice jus up in bowls,
Top with cheese and mayonnaise,
Then enjoy the songs of praise.
Finish up with lemon pie!
Sweet meringue piled nice and high.
Two cheerful pies for gloomy weather.
They took six years to put together.
♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬
Fish tacos is the meal for me!
Fresh cabbage shredded cheerfully!
Lime wedges waiting plump and green!
Keep the salsa, just gimme that sour cream.
Fish tacos is an easy dish!
Fish tacos are all made with fish!
Aldi has avocados cheap!
Darling, I love you, but, oh, that cabbage heap.
♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬
SHAWARMA, FRIED EGGPLANT
Sometimes life is very dark.
Joys are feeble, pains are stark.
Wherefore all this shuck and jive?
What’s the reason we’re alive?
Cease your weeping, wipe your eyes.
Marinate those chicken thighs
In garlic, cumin, cinnamon.
Filthy eastern ways are fun
Slice some eggplant, salt it well
Dredge in batter, what the hell.
Fry ’til crisp and serve it hot
With yogurt sauce. Yes, please, a lot.
Somewhere in my kitchen,
Is a missing ball of dough.
I had it Wednesday morning
But by noon it had to go.
I made four pizzas with the rest
And looked both high and low
But dough ball number five skipped town
Like Barry Manilow.*
*I don’t know, what do you want from me
THURSDAY ONION SOUP, BEER BREAD, BRATS
It’s only melted butter,
Melted butter in a pot
Cuddled up with onions
And some beef broth, not a lot.
Salt and pepper and flour
And a drift of parmesan.
But it smells like heart’s desire
And it tastes like supper’s on.
FRIDAY MAC AND CHEESE
You know what, you write a poem about mac and cheese.
You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.
salt for drying out the eggplant
veg oil for frying
3 cups flour
2tspred pepper flakes
optional: kosher salt for sprinkling
Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices. Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture.
Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming.
Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.
Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, scraping off excess if necessary, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.
Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.
Come, come away with me, on a magical food journey withouten any potatoes in it!
SATURDAY Hamburgers, chips, broccoli and dip
I can’t even remember what we were doing on Saturday. Running around, no doubt.
SUNDAY Pork ribs, cole slaw, mashed squash
This is my new favorite way to make acorn squash. Cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast, scoop, mash with butter, brown sugar or maples syrup, kosher salt, and a little chili pepper. It’s easy enough that I don’t mind making it for the very few people who like it. As I was eating, I asked Damien if he remembered that wonderful squash we had in the hospital after Corrie was born, and he reminded me that he and I have very different experiences of that first post-delivery meal. (He did not remember the squash.)
I sprinkled the pork with salt and pepper and put them in a roasting pan under the broiler, turning them once.
The cole slaw was very simple, just shredded cabbage in a dressing of mayo, vinegar, a little sugar, salt, and pepper.
MONDAY WELL. LET ME TELL YOU.
Monday is our annual “I don’t want to talk about it; we just really like Italian food and there aren’t any birthdays in October, so we have some free time” October 11th meal. We had a houseguest this week (my oldest kid’s friend from college), and my son’s girlfriend was here, and so was my father.
Excellent guests, all. I poured a little wine, and away we went!
For antipasto, we had two kinds of salami, fresh mozzarella, provolone, purple olives, giant green olives stuffed with garlic, fresh bread, toasted bread, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, breadsticks, pears wrapped in prosciutto.
And something called “pepper drops,” which turned out to be sweet, tender, marinated infant peppers. I didn’t get great pictures, but this is the basic idea, in the middle of my “everything happens here” kitchen:
While they were munching on that, I made the suppli.
Suppli are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with mozzarella in the center, and if that doesn’t sound good to you, I just don’t know what to say to you. You can add various things — mushrooms, pancetta, herbs, tomato sauce, etc. — but that is the basic form.
It’s much easier to make suppli if the risotto is chilled, so I made it the night before. I love my Instant Pot for easy, weekday risotto, but nothing beats creamy, fragrant, labor intensive, stovetop risotto for suppli. I formed them in the morning
and fried them while people were eating the antipasto. I am extremely proud of my suppli, and they turned out so well this year! Next year, though, I’ll let them all warm in the oven for at least five minutes, to make sure all the cheese is melted.
Then Damien served his course, which this year was pasta and homemade tomato sauce with sausages, and a mountain of garlic bread. Because I am frail, I skipped this course, and just ate some pomegranates.
Totally worth extra time in the underworld.
Finally, we had mini cannoli and Italian ices. I had to call around a bit and get a bakery to set aside some empty cannoli shells for me. I don’t really have a recipe for the filling — just ricotta cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla or almond extract. You can pipe it into the shells with a ziplock bag, and then sprinkle them with rainbow sprinkles or chocolate shavings, and pop a maraschino cherry in the end.
And that, my friends, was a very good meal, and a very good day.
Someone posted this recipe after I asked for truly easy meal ideas last week. I was skeptical then, since it looked complicated and weird.
WELL. This is definitely going in the rotation. It’s a weird cooking method, but it’s almost brainless, and comes out ridiculously tasty and oh ye gods and little fishes, that skin is remarkable. You may never in your life have had chicken thigh skin this good. Recipe from this site.
Basically you take chicken thighs, turn them skin down, and slash the meat on both sides of the bone, then salt and pepper it heavily. You put the thighs skin down on a COLD SKILLET, turn it way up until it sizzles, then turn it to medium, cover it tightly, and walk away. Well, you can check it a few times to make sure it’s not burning, and loosen the meat up off the pan, but that’s the only thing you have to do for it.
When it’s done cooking (about 25 minutes), you keep it warm in the oven while you sauté some mushrooms, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and white wine in the chicken fat, and then you have a lovely sauce to spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle some chopped chives over the top, and there it is.
You are thinking, “But what is a French recipe without butter? Surely this needs some butter to add richness and flavor and moisture.” Do me a favor and try this one time without butter, and see how it goes.
You will also think, “I’m only seasoning under the thighs? Surely the skin needs some flavor as well.” It turns out I was supposed to season them on both sides, but it didn’t matter! I don’t know how it works — I guess those slashes help the seasoning rise up into the whole thigh? — but the whole piece of chicken was flavorful. The thighs get sort of flattened, and the skin turns into . . . argh, how do I say this so it doesn’t sound gross. It sort of becomes a crisp cap or a rind to the meat. It’s just great. You really have to try it.
I will admit I made a huge mess with this, but that’s mainly because the skillets I used have almost no rim, and I slopped hot chicken fat everywhere. Next time I’ll just use some big frying pans, or maybe keep a baster on hand to keep the fat under control. I do recommend cast iron if you have it, but any stick-resistant pans should work.
Oh, and if you have mushroom-haters in your family, you can easily serve the chicken plain, since the mushrooms get cooked separately.
I didn’t get around to serving the asparagus with Monday’s feast, so I spread it in a pan, drizzled it with olive oil, shook on plenty of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, and roasted it.
Perfect, and so fast and easy.
THURSDAY French onion soup, smoked turkey and Swiss sandwiches
‘Tis soup season. I follow a very simple, flexible recipe where you slowwwwwwwwwly cook a ton of onions in a ton of butter, maybe stir iin some sugar, then stir in some flour and pepper, then add chicken or beef broth and parmesan cheese, and let it simmer for as long as you can. Top with more parmesan. I don’t like having a thick layer of cheese on top. I hate it when you’re supposed to bust through a layer of something and all you have is a spoon. Life is hard enough.
Infected with some madness, I picked up a gallon of glue so the kids could make slime (no school because a nor’easter left a lot of downed power lines and debris in the road) which I’ve somehow managed to resist all these years. We made the kind with glue, baking soda, and contact lens fluid. It turned out well, but it needs a lot more contact lens fluid and mixing than they say! We also had a dentist appointment, and we needed to hit the flu clinic, so it wasn’t exactly the sleepy, cozy, rainy day at home I envisioned. I rushed the soup a bit, so it was a little on the light side, but it was still delicious, buttery, sweet, rich, comforting. No leftovers, which is rare in this house.
I made a bunch of leftover hot dog and hamburger buns into big croutons. I drizzled them with olive oil and shook on plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and toasted them slowly in a 300 oven.
We had smoked turkey from the deli, Swiss cheese, and ciabatta rolls. I had mine with dijon mustard and pickles. We all went to a flu shot clinic at 5, so it was good to come home to hot soup and easy sandwiches.
This was the swankiest flu clinic I’ve ever seen. They had apples and cider, and the kids got stickers, pencils, and candy, and then they were allowed to pick out a teddy bear and bring it to a nurse, who would then put a cast on it wherever you wanted.
The place was absolutely mobbed. I am very proud of NH. I know nobody was showing up with all their kids on a Thursday evening just to get a teddy bear.
Just quesadillas, I believe.
Okay, here’s the recipe card for the suppli and risotto. Will add more cards later as time allows! Get your flu shot!
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 + 8Tbsbutter
1cupfinely chopped onions
1cupdry white wine
1cupgrated 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.
The theme for the week is YOUR FRIEND BUTTER. Butter is your friend. Don’t listen to your doctor. Your doctor is DOO-DOO. You need more butter!
And you also need my pal Fannie Farmer. This week, what with the cold and the colored leaves and the swirling mists and the ennui, I found myself turning again and again to this cookbook I’ve been using for over twenty years now. Good old Fannie taught me how to roast pork ribs, how to make pie crust and pie filling, how to wait for the onions in onion soup, and so much more.
Fun fact: The author, Marion Cunningham, was briefly married to a then-unknown Thurgood Marshall when they were both teenagers. The couple broke up within days of the wedding, apparently after a bitter all-night dispute over rigatoni.
That’s . . . that’s not true. I’m sorry.
Short version of what we had this week: Butter.
SATURDAY Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus
I have no memory of Saturday.
SUNDAY Chicken pecan salad; apple pie
They keep asking for this dish, so I keep making it.
Coat chicken breasts in oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in the oven, then cube the meat. Serve over greens with dried cranberries, toasted pecans (or almonds or walnuts), crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese, diced red onions, and some kind of sweet vinaigrette. This time we had pomegranate. I burned the nuts, but they were still good.
I finally got around to making a pie, long after we ate up all the apples we picked at the orchard. I used the Fannie Farmer pie crust, but used butter instead of shortening. I also did the trick of freezing the sticks of butter for half an hour and then shredding them with a cheese grater. This does 90% of the work of incorporating the fat into the flour without overworking it, and this crust turned out light and supple without sacrificing taste. It won’t work on Thanksgiving, though. It only works if I make a pie for no particular reason. On Thanksgiving, my pie crust will be doo-doo.
I rolled out the dough for the top crust and turned it over to the kids, who used Halloween cookie cutters to make a pie of great spooooookiness.
They used kind of a lot of them, so it has sort of an indeterminate “well of souls” look, I guess. I wet the crust a bit and sprinkled sugar on the top, also spooky. You could also brush on a little beaten egg white to give it some gloss, if you’re into that.
MONDAY Oven roasted pork ribs, rice, mashed butternut squash, apple pie
A very fine autumn meal
and still the best way to prepare pork ribs indoors. Just plenty of salt and pepper and a very hot oven and turn the ribs once, until they are browned. So juicy and easy. Be a meat hero!
For the squash, I cut them in half, scooped out the pulp and seeds, and just cooked them as-is in a medium oven until they were soft, maybe 30 minutes or so. Peeled off the skin and mashed the squash up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cozy.
The kids were by far most excited by the rice, which I cooked in beef broth instead of water. This is their idea of Ultimate Fanciness.
We had an entire leftover pie from Sunday! I don’t understand what is happening to our family. “Leftover pie.” Clarification?
TUESDAY Taco Tuesday! and corn chips
I learned from previous weeks that too much cumin can make your taco meat taste like angry dirt, so I eased up on the cumin and added plenty of salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder.
The iceberg lettuce I was saving turned out to be cabbage. So I shredded that, and it was fine. Our fridge has a trick of freezing everything in back, and it turns out sour cream does not recover from being frozen. It gets separated and mealy, bleh. But we did have tomatoes and plenty of cheese, plus jarred jalapeno rings. Good enough for the likes of us.
WEDNESDAY Onion soup, Italian sausages, beer bread
Just sausages! I really wanted onion soup, but a significant faction in the family needs to have meat. A few pounds of sweet Italian sausages in the pan, and there it was: Supper.
I absolutely love this simple onion soup recipe. I used about 6-7 pounds of yellow onions and just acres and acres of butter. I used beef broth instead of water (skip the salt if you use broth), and tons of pepper and Parmesan cheese at the end. Nothing to it, and it doesn’t look like much, but it’s so good.
You don’t need quite as much butter as the recipe says (and it’s not strictly necessary to bathe in the flour, either), but as long as you don’t be a big lazy baby and you take the time to sift, this bread comes up fluffy and golden and moist every time, with a gorgeous cobbled crust.
It’s much less crumbly and cake-like and more chewy and bread-like than most quick breads. And you can make it all in one bowl. Mix up the dry, add the beer, stir it up and chunk it in the pan. It says to bake an hour, but start checking at 40 minutes or so. It has an earthy, slightly honeyed taste. (This varies with the beer, of course. I used Narragansett.)
THURSDAY Grilled cheese with ham and apple
Extremely popular here. They didn’t even ask if there were chips coming. (There were not.)
I put a layer of cheddar cheese top and bottom, with the ham and apples in the middle, and then put the sandwiches in the oven for a bit after grilling, to make sure it’s all melted. I have been using this wonderful sourdough bread from Aldi lately. It’s perfect for grilled sandwiches.
We make our grilled sandwiches with a thin layer of mayo on the outside. It doesn’t give it a mayonnaise taste, but it adds a sort of thin, crunchy crust to the entire sandwich. (Yes, you still use butter on the pan after spreading mayo on the bread. Yes, this is why we’re fat. WORTH IT.)
I really wanted some leftover onion soup, but the sandwich was completely filling, and I had to admit, I was truly stuffed. So I just ate the sandwiches the kids didn’t eat. Whatever, I went running this morning. Whatever!
FRIDAY Giant pancake with chocolate chips, scrambled eggs
I felt guilty about something last week, I forget what, so I bought a bag of chocolate chips.
Giant pancake, if you don’t know, is this: You take an entire box of pancake mix and add enough water to make thick batter. Butter a pan, spread the batter in, and bake at 350 for ten minutes or so. Serve in wedges and go lie down. Bring a stick of butter with you, just in case.