What’s for supper? Vol. 189: Suppli! Canolli! French onion soup! Jacques Pepin’s chicken thighs! Parmesan asparagus! and more

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.

TUESDAY
Leftovers.

It was such a good meal, we had some of it twice.

WEDNESDAY
Jaques Pepin’s insanely crispy chicken thighs with mushroom sauce; parmesan asparagus

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. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

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! 

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 117: Cumin is king

Ready, set, food.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips

This weekend, the kitchen ceiling fell in. We knew it was on its way out (here was one hint from earlier that day:)

but the schedule got pushed up abruptly in a shower of dirt, pencils, and mouse poop. We mulled it over, did a few tests for lead paint, and decided our lives were already ruined anyway, so I tacked up some plastic sheeting and spent the day pulling down the stained, droopy, acoustic tiles that remained.

Underneath, as we suspected? A very promising stamped tin ceiling

with, um, a few problematic areas.

and

for instance.

Also we found a very fetching mouse skeleton, which, in my frenzy of productivity, I threw away. I now regret this. I also wonder where his head went.

We bought out house from the bank with no information, and have had to do some sleuthing to patch together a history. The previous owners’ home improvement choices are a mixed bag. When the basement was on fire, they just walled that area up. Okay, fair enough. But after the kitchen fire(s), they apparently decided that re-insulating was too much of a hassle, that the ceiling could easily be four inches lower, and that cheap and crappy never goes out of style. And who can fault them?

Oh yeah, us. We fault them! We fault them!

Anyway, here is what the ceiling looks like now:

When we have the emotional wherewithal, we’ll take those beams down (they were just nailed to the tin as a base for the acoustic tiles), remove as much paint as possible, shove a bunch of insulation (and a soupcon of mouse poison) into the holes and patch them up, and paint. Onward and upward.

Here’s an account of some of our previous half-assed kitchen renovations.

SUNDAY
Enchilada bake

Several friends tipped me off about making enchiladas so much easier by simply layering the components in a pan, as for lasagna, rather than rolling individual enchiladas.

The result: Yes, far far easier. Not much to look at, though.

The taste is, of course, just the same. I used too much sauce, so they turned out flabbier than even I would like (and I like flabby foods a lot). Verdict: will make again, because they were tasty and satisfying; but will also roll individual enchiladas again, if I have the time, because they’re nicer.

To make them, I coated some chicken breasts with oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder, and broiled them, then shredded the meat. In some casserole dishes, I made layers of tortillas, chicken, canned enchilada sauce (I did one pan with red and one with green), shredded cheddar cheese, and sauteed, diced onions — probably 3-4 layers of each ingredient– and then baked it in a 350 oven for maybe forty minutes.

We also had sour cream, but I personally declined. I was prepared to scarf down eleventy million calories in chicken and cheese, but forbore to indulge in a dollop of sour cream on top. Please! I am not from Havana!

MONDAY
Moroccan (?) chicken with chickpeas, pomegranates

Pretty fancy meal for a Monday! I was having such a productive day on Sunday, I went ahead and started the chicken marinating then. The rest comes together very quickly. It’s a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT Cooking.

 

And this is the recipe that taught me I’ve been spelling and saying “turmeric” wrong my entire life. I solved that little problem this time by being clean out of turmeric. I never did have fennel. I decided that as of now, cumin is king.

Let me tell you, there was nothing lacking in flavor for this meal.

It was just screamingly delicious. My husband who hates chickpeas loves this meal.

To make the marinade, I took half a large tub of Greek yogurt and mixed it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin. This I used to marinate probably eight pounds of chicken thighs and wings. I normally don’t like wings — they don’t seem worth the trouble — but for this dish, they were perfect. I let it marinate for 36 hours, but a few hours would work, too.

About an hour before dinner, I drained and rinsed four 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mixed them up with a few glugs of olive oil, a few more spoonfuls of cumin, salt and pepper, and two red onions sliced thin.

I spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then made room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken. Then it all went in a 425 oven for almost an hour. 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.

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
Chop up some cilantro.
Slice another two onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Then take the rest of the Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

The sweet, tart pomegranate seeds are just delightful with the crunchy, savory chicken skin and the creamy yogurt sauce. Everyone got a quarter of a pomegranate and just dug in.

This is one of those meals where we kept shouting “SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” like a, like I don’t know what. But it was so good! This is a fairly cheap dish, too. Especially if you skip the turmeric.

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with jarred sauce and sausages, salad

I had about a dozen long Italian sausages, which I started to cook and then forgot about. Miraculously, they did not burn; but by the time it was dinner, I was so enervated that I just couldn’t bring myself to cut them into normal pieces. So everyone just got a bowl of pasta with a giant sausage lounging on top. No complaints.

WEDNESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Oops.

THURSDAY
Pizza

Nothing to say about that, except that I tried out one of those pizza pans with holes in the bottom (affiliate link through Skimlinks), and it did make the bottom more crisp. Usually we slide the pizza out of its pan for the last several minutes of baking, but this method is far less of an invitation to cheesy disaster.

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, roast cauliflower, french fries

Ooh, I think I have some sweet pepper and hummus, too.

Make the chicken! You won’t be sorry! Cumin is king!!!!