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

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

Here’s what we et this week:

SATURDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, pickles

Always a popular meal. 

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
Regular tacos, guacamole and chips

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

My guacamole recipe:
Jump to Recipe

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

TUESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, sweet potato fries

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Beef and broccoli on rice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Pretty pretty. 

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

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

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

Served with whipped cream. 

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

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

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein, frozen egg rolls and dumplings

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

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

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

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

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cherry pie filling for TWO pies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

To pit cherries:

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

To make the filling:

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

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

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

Recipe Notes

This would also be fine over ice cream. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 6 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2 Tbsp 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. 118: Everyday Gras

You will become fatter just reading this post.

SATURDAY
Grilled chicken with cranberry salad

Quick quick, gobble gobble.

I doused some chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper, and plenty of garlic powder, and broiled it, turning once, then cut it into slices. Bag o’ mixed greens, a few pouches of dried cranberries, some crumbled feta cheese, and a bag of chopped walnuts, toasted for a few minutes while the chicken was finishing up. I could eat this every day. As long as you plan ahead, it takes maybe twenty minutes to put together.

SUNDAY
Hot dogs, hot wings, terrible Russian pickles, chips, ice cream sundaes

Food fit for a superb owl.

Damien made these hot wings from Deadspin . We agreed they could have been cooked a tiny bit longer before they got sauced, to make them a little more crisp, but they were still extremely tasty. He made a big bowl of sauce with sour cream and blue cheese, which I ate with the wings, with the celery, with the hot dogs, and with anything else I could fit in my paw, one little dippy dab at a time, for the rest of the week.

We happened to stop into the Siberian Food Mart and Damien told me to pick out something nice for myself, so I chose this imposing jar of giant pickles.

Well, it took three people and a knife to get the lid off, and they tasted mostly of ammonia. Boo! We also spotted one of our kids casually hanging around on the label of a box of cocoa or something.

MONDAY
Meatloaf, baked potato, salad

Guess what tastes great on baked potatoes? BLUE CHEESE SAUCE.

My basic meatloaf recipe:
Mix together with your hands:
Five pounds of ground beef, two pounds of ground turkey
About four cups of bread crumbs
Seven beaten eggs
Maybe a cup and a half of milk.
Tons of minced garlic, salt, and pepper and whatever.

Form into two tapered loaves on a pan with some drainage. Drizzle the outside with ketchup, you with your filthy eastern ways. Put them in a 400 oven for about two hours, until it’s done all the way through.

I actually had to put it back in the oven for 25 minutes or so after I took this pic.

You can add all kinds of things to the meat mixture, of course. Minced onions, worcestershire sauce. Actually that’s all I can think of. I don’t know, maybe horseradish. You can use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs, too.

Oh, check out this potato. Check out this frickin’ potato.

This is why you support independent Catholic journalism. Who else will show you frickin’ potatoes like that? No one named Leila, that’s who.

TUESDAY
Sausage and spinach risotto; roasted balsamic vegetables

The NYT had a recipe for sausage risotto, but instead of reading it, I wung it.

In the morning, I squeezed the meat out of a few pounds of sweet Italian sausages and browned it and drained it. Then, closer to dinner time, I made a big batch of basic risotto in the Instant Pot. Here is the recipe, adapted from Good Housekeeping. I tripled the recipe, but here’s the amounts for about four servings:

1.Put some olive oil or butter into the IP, enough to coat the bottom. Add whatever spices you like, plus diced onions if you like. Use the “sauté” setting until whatever you chose is browned up and smelling nice.
2.Add two cups of uncooked rice, and keep it moving with a wooden spoon for about four minutes (longer if you use more rice, obviously), until the rice starts turning opaque. Don’t let it brown. Press “cancel.”
3.Add four cups of chicken broth or other broth, and stir the rice so it’s all submerged.
4.Lock the lid, close the valve, and set it on high pressure for six minutes.
5.When it’s done, do a quick release, then dump in so much parmesan cheese. Add pepper, and more salt if needed.

For this meal, I put the cooked, drained sausage in with the broth and let the risotto cook that way. Then, after adding the parmesan, I stirred in a few handfuls of raw baby spinach, letting the heat wilt it.

For the vegetables, I combined a pound of whole baby Brussels sprouts, one head of cauliflower florets, one cubed butternut squash, and a pound of quartered mushrooms. I spread them in a shallow pan in a single layer, then drizzled them with honey, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, rustled it up a bit, and sprinkled salt and pepper on top. Then I slid it right under a hot broiler until it was a little bit charred.

For the record, this was a completely magnificent meal. The risotto was creamy and savory; the vegetables were toothsome and sweet. I was the only one in my house who thought so. Corn flakes and frozen pizza were consumed. Too bad for them.

I also ate kind of a lot of pretzels dipped in blue cheese sauce while waiting for the Instant Pot to stop venting.

WEDNESDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches; fries

Wednesday was a snow day, and since we are having guests on the weekend, I made the kids do a lot of cleaning. One cleaned out the refrigerator. She found a small bowl of some lumpy, white substance, and she . . . threw it out. Thus was broken the thrall of blue cheese sauce over my heart.

For the pulled pork, I just chunked the meat into two slow cookers with some Narragansett beer, a lot of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and the remains of some jars of sweet pepper rings and jalapeno peppers with the juice, and put it on low for six hours.

This meal never tastes quite as good as it smells, but it smells like a meat god has descended on your kitchen and it will be your last day on earth, so I guess a step or two down from that is okay. I served the meat with sub rolls, bottled BBQ sauce, and red onions.

I brought up the possibility of broccoli, but everyone just flapped their hands at me dismally, so I saved myself the effort.

THURSDAY
Ham and egg English muffin sandwiches

With a side of No-Choice Broccoli.

FRIDAY

Oh, wait till I tell you. A friendly priest is passing through the area, and arranged for this to be delivered:

and this:

So, I’m gonna get some beer and some French bread and make some green salad and potato salad and rice, and I believe we’re going to have a Vendredi Gras (?).

And what about you, ma fren? Do you have plans for Mardi Gras?

5 cooking terms that no longer frighten me

There are only so many amusing anecdotes you can squeeze out of hot dogs, chicken burgers, tacos, and pizza; and if cooking the same things every week is tedious, then writing about cooking them is enough to make you want to hurl yourself into a cooking pot.

Thus, my weekly “What’s for Supper?” posts (see sidebar), which are hurtling toward Vol. 100 in a matter of months, have propelled me to learn more about cooking than I picked up in the first fifteen+ years of marriage.

To my delight, lots of cooking terminology that seemed so complicated and sophisticated is pretty basic stuff, and well within my grasp– as long as I look it up ahead of time, and don’t attempt to learn a new technique on the fly. Here are a few:

1. Braising

 I was under the impression that braising required leaping flames, arcane implements made out of brass or copper, and possibly some shouting. Turns out I have been braising all my life. It’s is a two-step process for cooking flavorful meat, where you use high, dry heat first (searing), then low, moist heat (stewing). For more details, see “Four Simple Rules for Braising Anything” from Bon Appetit.

2.  Deglazing

In my head, deglazing could only be accomplished by a subtle but masterful motion of the wrist and split-second timing. Actually, it just means you’re done cooking something up in a pan, and you don’t want to waste all those yummy little blackened scraps and flavorful gunk that’s stuck to the bottom. So you dump in a cup of broth or wine or whatever, and scrape it up, incorporating all the good stuff. That’s it. Adds tons of flavor and makes the pan easier to wash, too.

3. Caramelizing

  I always thought this involved some kind of sugar syrup, because, duh, “caramel.” I was half right. Caramelization is an irreversible chemical process wherein water is released and sugar is broken down, producing a characteristic flavor. Sometimes you do add sugar, as when you’re caramelizing carrots or nuts; but onions already have sugar in them. (Many vegetables have sugar in them, actually, but wonderful things happen when you call it forth from onions in particular.)

The only thing you need to know about caramelizing onions is that it takes forehhhhhhhver. I always figure on 40 minutes. If you see an article titled “How to caramelize onions quickly,” spit bitterly upon the floor and turn away, because it’s a dirty lie. More tips for caramelizing onions well from Bon Appetit. More grousing about the fog of deceit surrounding the issue from Slate.

4. Chiffonade

Not, it turns out, a term for those weird paper booties they put on the turkey in Amelia Bedelia. Nope, a chiffonade is just what you get when you take a bunch of edible leaves, roll them up, and then slice them into thin ribbons. Pretty important if you still have Instagram friends who won’t blacklist you on account of your wantonly frequent photos of soup. WANTON soup, get it?

But seriously, adding a garnish of greens on top of a dish isn’t just to make it pretty. Fresh herbs have a different taste from the ones cooked in, and they will give the finished dish lovely boost in flavor.

5. Pickling

This one doesn’t quite belong in this list, oh well. Everyone knows what pickling is (and I tried it once. Only once. Mold, salt, broken glass, crushed dreams, and a cabinet that will never smell the same. So now I buy my pickles), but did you know you can quick pickle stuff? Like, you can pickle in the morning and eat it for dinner?

Take some carrots, radishes, cucumbers, daikon, or whatever, and slice it thin, and chuck it in a jar with some vinegar (any kind) and a little water, and stir in some sugar or honey. By meal time, they will be exciting, and you can make a boring sandwich feisty and fun.

How about you? Have you gotten past some intimidating technical terms?
And how do we feel about that pig eating the wolf who ate his brothers, anyway? Can we assume that, since the three of them went their separate ways and had such widely divergent worldviews vis a vis homebuilding and security, maybe the third pig actually derived some brutal satisfaction from knowing what that wolf’s flesh was made of? Or did he just boil him EXECUTION SYTLE but not eat him? Or what?

***
Pig and wolf picture by Leonard Leslie Brooke (1862-1940) (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/15661) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
F
ood images:
Caramelized onions: Stacy Spensley via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/7376763436 (Creative Commons)
Chiffonade: Stacy Spensley via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/7376763436 (Creative Commons)
Deglazing: Scott Feldstein via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottfeldstein/5635765929 (Creative Commons)
Braising: via Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-meat-dish-25273/
Pickled veg: ih via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/irisphotos/14680773562 (Creative Commons)