What’s for supper? Vol. 382: All hands on deck

IS it Friday? Apparently it is Friday! Happy Friday. Today, the last kid has her last day of school (the other schools let out last month, last week, and earlier this week, respectively).

We’ve had hot, sunny weather all week, and countless numbers of ceremonies and little parties and I don’t even know what else, and I’ve been spending every spare minute working on the pool deck, and it just this minute started raining. Which is good, because I have been neglecting my garden in favor of working on the deck. 

We had some quick but delicious meals this week, with a real summery feel to them. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY

Saturday was Sophia’s graduation! Little Baby New Year, all done with high school. 

Our first kid to graduate from Catholic high school. And that’s six out of ten kids done with high school!

After graduation she went to a friend’s party, and then we went out to eat, to the restaurant of her choice. Which was CHILI’S, because we have raised her right. Then we got ice cream, and I picked ginger ice cream, which is now on my list of things to make this summer. So refreshing. I want to make ginger ice cream with coconut, and mango ice cream with pecans, or some combination like that. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches with swiss and chimichurri

Sunday after Mass I made some chimichurri

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and got started on the deck, and Damien cooked the roast beef. I attached three legs with carriage bolts on one side and screwed a big X, to reinforce it.

I didn’t bother trying to make the legs even because the ground is so uneven. Just literally leaning into that whole situation.

I’m using all salvaged wood, so a lot of the work is removing old nails and screws and extra bits of wood, and also I’m determined to do as much by myself as possible, so everything took a million billion years, and I truly don’t know what I’m doing, andI disturbed an awful lot of angry ants, so by the time it was dinner, boy oh boy, did that sandwich taste good.

Damien cooked the meat by seasoning it very heavily, like absolutely crusty, with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then he sears it in hot oil with a bunch of whole garlic cloves. Then he roasts it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and begins checking it for doneness. We like it quite rare, and it turned out juicy and tender and perfect. 

The chimichurri was also excellent.

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It’s like the flavor equivalent of if a toddler who just took a bath and escapes from his mother and goes and rolls around in the newly-mowed grass, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to him. 

MONDAY
Scrambled duck eggs with sausage on homemade biscuits

I prepped the biscuit dough in the morning, mixing the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the eggs and milk in another, and I shredded the butter on a box grater and then froze it. (If I’m going to make the dough right away, I freeze the butter first, and then grate it directly into the dry ingredients.) 

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Spent some more time on the deck, drilling out the holes for the leg bolts. I couldn’t put the legs on yet, because the deck still needed to be flipped, and I didn’t want it to be too heavy. I also worked on leveling out the ground to seat the post bases, close enough so you can jump off the deck into the pool, but not so close that it damages the pool. 

As I dug and measured and dug again and measured again and cussed and dug, I started having some massive flashbacks of the neverending pool prep we did a few years ago, when we kept digging and digging, trying to find some magical, mystical strata of ground that was not rocky (so it wouldn’t ruin the pool floor) but level (so the pool wouldn’t tip over), and every time we removed a rock, it turned out to be a GIANT ENORMOUS BOULDER, and when we got it out, ope, look at that, the ground wasn’t level anymore. And we DID truck in sand to level it off, but somehow it wasn’t that simple, and I remember it taking something like seventeen years to finish. So that’s why I want to do the deck myself! Because if I’m gonna suffer, at least I’ll only have one person mad at me (myself). 

So about half an hour before dinner I rushed in started sausages cooking, and threw the biscuit dough together, and baked twelve enormous biscuits. They turned out with a wonderful texture, just pillowy soft inside with a thin, crackly, buttery shell on the outside

but they tasted like straight baking soda. I have no idea what happened. Same recipe I always use. Is it because I broke up the assembly process? Is it because the butter was frozen? No idea. But I scrambled up a bunch of eggs and had the kids make orange juice, and it was a good enough meal.

After dinner I did get the kids to help me flip the deck over into the bases, and then while they held it, I attached the other three legs. 

Not! Quite! Straight! But pretty close. And, unlike me, more stable than it looks. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

Totally Unremarkable Tacos.

I took this picture of my taco resting on the arm of the living room chair, and you can see the piles of projects the kids brought home and boxes of miscellaneous stuff cleared out of the laundry room so Damien could work on the dryer and the living room not having been cleaned because I have been working on my deck and not yelling at people to clean more, and just THINGS AND STUFF EVERYWHERE. It’s fine. All manner of things shall be fine. But as you can see, it seemed like too much work to put salsa on. Startin to get a little tired. 

WEDNESDAY
Italian sandwiches, chips, watermelon, birthday cake

Tuesday, Dora and her friend came over to belatedly celebrate her birthday. I scurried around getting the sharpest wood scraps out of the yard, and made a bunch of meat and cheese platters

and we had nice sandwiches

and Clara made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. Sadly, she ran out of time and wasn’t able to complete her plan, which was to recreate the Carvel cake that Kelsey Grammar and Jenna order to pull the misspelled cake refund con. So the cake just said FRAJER and we all had to just sort of sit with our choices in life. 

I heard it was delicious, though, unsurprisingly. Clara’s very good. 
And if I may toot my own horn for a mo, I’m sometimes pretty good at buying birthday presents

It was a book from her childhood, which we have been trying to remember the name of for years and years and years.

It’s about an alligator, and whenever I described it, everyone always thought I was talking about Lyle Lyle Crocodile. No! Not Lyle! I know I sound like the guy who is convinced there is a little mouse with a big hat, and he goes very fast, but no, NOT Speedy Gonzales. He’s a mouse! Anyway, she liked her present. Phew. 

I also did some laughably bad work on the deck, reinforcing the legs on the other long end

It was just one of those “all it has to do is not fall down” moments, and I think I arrived. The X I made on the first side has one plank on the inside of the legs crossing over the plank on the outside , but this second side of the deck is too close to the pool wall, so it had to — you know what, never mind. I’m the one who has to live with this; why should you get involved? It’s fine. 

THURSDAY
Poke bowls, potstickers

Thursday I attached a ladder to the short end of the deck

and reinforced the legs a bit more, replaced a few planks on top, annnnd started removing the side of the existing lifeguard station thingy on the other short end, with the intent of making it all into one big deck. Which wasn’t the original plan, but what is, these days? 

This may or may not work out. But it may! I added a fairly chimpy joist to join the two platforms, and now I need to buy some hardware to reinforce that, and then I can start adding to the floor, and putting up a railing. 

I haven’t yet decided what to do with the one long end that you see when you look straight at the pool. I have some pallets I could just attach to it, to make it more finished, kinda like this, but two of them

Or I could just attach some kind of other wood. I’m really trying to use just salvaged wood and only buy hardware, so I dunno. I may just save it for another year. My plan is to build steps to replace the ladder next year, and I’m going to stain it when I’m done building this year. 

Dinner was blessedly simple. I had remembered to take the ahi tuna out of the freezer in the morning, and although the cat did find it and start nefariously dragging it across the house like an absolute cartoon character, it was double bagged, so it survived. I started some good rice in the instant pot, got Clara to cut up a bunch of mangos, chopped up some sugar snap peas, and diced up some ahi tuna. So we had rice, tuna, mango, pea sprouts, sugar snap peas, and those spicy chili lime cashews from Aldi, and also the hot sweet Polynesian sauce from Aldi. 

It was SO spicy, but incredibly tasty. What an entertaining treat this meal is. 100% mouth party time.

I wasn’t sure there would be enough food, so I grabbed a couple of bags of frozen potstickers from Alid and just boiled ’em. Everyone was pleased. 

FRIDAY
Not actually sure

Last Friday (after I shared last week’s food post), I made lemon garlic shrimp on pasta, and it turned out spectacular.

I used this Sip and Feast recipe and I’m probably gonna make this exact thing again this Friday, because this time the other store had a sale on shrimp and I’m not made of stone. The recipe has a couple more steps than I would do if I were just throwing it together on intuition, but it’s totally worth it. Every flavor just popped right out, and the texture of the shrimp was absolutely perfect. 

Sophia is talking about celebrating the honest-to-goodness start of summer by taking the other kids out for pizza, and if that doesn’t pan out, there is tuna in the house, so there will be something for every palate. 

Oh, last Friday was also the feast of the Sacred Heart, so I also made something I’ve had my eye on for a while: Coeur à la Crème, following this recipe from Mon Petit Four. It was really quite easy, and I think I will make it every year for the solemnity. I need to work on the presentation, but I did achieve that Catholic What-The-Hell-Am-I-Actually-Eating feel.

and everybody thought it tasted good. I thought it would be like cheesecake, dense and heavy, with a light garnish of fruit, but it was actually kind of reversed: A thick, intense fruit compote on top of an airy, not-too-sweet creamy heart. Very pleasant. 

I didn’t have blackberries the recipe called for, so instead I made a compote with about a pound of strawberries and a pint of blueberries, to which I added two or three tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of water.

I simmered it for a bit and mashed it from time to time, and then mixed in a good slug of lilac jelly; and then I spooned out some of the liquid and mixed it with a few tablespoons of cornstarch, and added that back into the sauce, cooked it for a bit longer, and then took it off the heat and let it cool until dessert time. 

I don’t think I mentioned what the lilac syrup tastes like! It’s lovely. It does taste floral, but different from rosewater (which I don’t really like). It is sweet, of course, and a little bit citrusy, but not cloyingly sweet, and it just has a bright, lively but not too intense flavor, faintly like blueberry but brighter. I really like it, although it never completely gelled and is more like a very thick syrup than jelly. I think next year, I will put some of the lilac petals into the food processor and put them into the jelly, to give it a little more body. 

Oh, so I made a double recipe of the cream part, and one was in a large silicone heart mold, lined with cheesecloth as the recipe suggested. The rest, I made in small heart molds sprayed with cooking spray, and they did not come out at all. We had to spoon them out. Lesson learned! 

I also learned you can help your cream cheese achieve room temperature by not going shopping until the very last minute, and panicking a bit on the ride home

But like I said, it was hot and sunny!

And now, like I said, it is raining, so I can’t work on the deck, but can only sit here and think happily about not having to water my poor, neglected garden. I think I put 500 miles on the car this week, just to-and-fro-and-to-and-fro, and I’m so happy about today finally being the last day of school, you cannot imagine. I bought Corrie a wooden crow call for some reason, so we have that going for us. 

While I have been doing my completely voluntary deck and bridge projects, Damien has been incredibly busy with far less glamorous projects: The dryer, of course, and his car, and my car, and Moe’s car, and Lena’s car, and now today the dishwasher, and I’m almost certainly forgetting some stuff. The things that man has taught himself how to do just blows my mind. Somebody should make him some shrimp, at the very least. 

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

What’s for supper? Vol. 290: The secret ingredient is Manischewitz

WELL WE HAVE COVID. Pretty mad about it. Feels like the flu. Not pleasant, but nobody’s going to the hospital. Two of the other kids had it last week and another one has it now, plus me. Feeling very lucky we were able to cancel a bunch of stuff and lay low so we can just collapse like bunches of broccoli and ride this out. And feeling very glad for the vaccines, without which this would have certainly been a lot worse.

We did have some good meals this past week. Read on!

SATURDAY
Passover!

We had a great Passover. We had three guests and everyone worked together to put together a pretty seder table

and the food was great.
Gefilte fish, chopped liver

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chicken soup with matzoh balls

plenty of charoset

spinach pie bites

and I didn’t get pics, but cinnamon garlic chicken and roast lamb 

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–both very easy and tasty. 

And then we washed up real quick and went to the Easter Vigil! Did not get many pictures. Benny and Corrie wore matching yellow dresses with frilly shoulders, and Clara put their hair up in crown braids, and I put yellow flowers in their hair. I sure wish I had gotten pictures. 

Here’s my Facebook status from when we got home:

Before Mass, we ran to the basement to go to the bathroom and saw the pastor, wearing his vestment with the gold thread and the big red gems, coming out of a utility closet with an armload of toilet paper for the women’s bathroom. Mass was 2.5 hours. Lots of adult catechumens. Beautiful chant of the exultet. Candles. The creation story. Ludicrous music from the guitar choir, complete with bongo drums. Babies squalling. Baptism, bells, incense. That one couple that clings to each other the whole time like they’re on a lifeboat from the Titanic. And at the end, the pastor announced that that nice guy from youth group is entering the seminary. More bells. My feet are killing me. The Church is such a mess, but from here, it looks to be thriving.

SUNDAY
Easter!

Easter dinner is wonderful because we can get another crack at all the delicious Passover food, but I’m not stressed out and exhausted with the seder and Easter Vigil plans. A lovely plate, as you can see, with plenty of horseradish. 

MONDAY
Pizza

Monday I went shopping, and started packing up all the special Passover plates and fiddly little wine glasses and whatnot. Aldi pizza was called for. I took a chance on a bacon chicken ranch pizza, and it was fine.

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday! 

Damien made tacos and they were delicious. 

WEDNESDAY
Leftover lamb, horseradish, maztoh, fresh mozzarella, chopped liver, string beans, roast beef, chimichurri

Seemed like the last day I could reasonably try to set out any Passover food, so I made a this-and-that dinner with plenty of roast beef and a big bowl of chimichurri. 

Chimichurri is fantastic. Spring in a bowl. I made it with Italian parsley and regular parsley, basil, dried oregano because I couldn’t find fresh, plenty of garlic, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil and wine vinegar. 

The roast beef turned out great, nice and rare and tender. Damien made it, and I asked him not to season it too heavily, because the chimichurri was pretty intense.

We also had fresh mozzarella, raw string beans, horseradish with beets (which just tastes like regular horseradish, but it’s a startling disco color), and matzoh. I briefly considered making bread, but just thinking about it made me tired, so I skipped it. (In retrospect, I was starting to get sick on Wednesday, but assumed I was just a bad person who fails to make bread for her family.)

And it was perfect. 

Perfect!

Before I went to bed, I marinated the big fatty pork picnic I bought so we could have Chinese pork roast the next day, and that was a good idea. 

THURSDAY
Char siu, rice, raw broccoli

So, so the marinade for char siu is very easy. You can add garlic or ginger if you want, but you can keep it super simple and just use these liquid ingredients and have it done in no time. 

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I looked up my recipe, and it just said “wine,” which is not helpful. Red wine, white wine, sweet, dry, rice wine, what?? Then it occurred to me that we had half a bottle of Manischewitz lurking on the counter, and I certainly wasn’t going to drink it. It’s heavy, sweet, and sticky purple, and I realized it would be perfect for this pork roast, which wants a nice glossy, glazy, dark red exterior. 

So the meat marinated about 14 hours, ant then I put it the oven at 11:30 — actually, I asked Damien to do it, because I was suddenly feeling an irresistible urge to go lie down. I had a nice argument with myself about whether I was just pretending to be sick and refusing to work because I’m terrible, but eventually I fell asleep, so that settled that. The meat cooked for five hours, and then for the last hour, you add the marinade back into the pan and baste it every ten minutes. It’s a pain in the neck but SO WORTH IT.

Look at my beautiful grisly glossy char siu with the Manischewitz marinade!

Look!

Look.

And it was so moist inside, and so tender it just absolutely collapsed. 

We used the basting marinade as additional sauce for the meat and rice. Just so good.  

Just about the whole family enjoyed this dish, which was very gratifying. 

Then I started getting unmistakably sick, and I retreated into the bedroom and that’s where I’ve been ever since, except for going out to get a COVID test.  So I guess I need to isolate until Monday. Damien’s been bringing me tea and vitamin C drops and taking care of everything. Please pray no one else gets sick! We now have four people isolating in our little house, and that really is the maximum amount of isolation we can physically manage before it becomes meaningless. 

FRIDAY
Hamburgers, fries

‘Tis meat Friday, because it’s within the octave of Easter. We did eat a lot of large hunks of meat this week, so we’ve got that going for us. 

Next week is vacation, which is kind of good because we can all safely be sick and not miss school, but kind of a bummer because there goes our vacation. OH WELL. Somehow we’ll manage. 

 

Chopped liver (chicken liver pâté)

A very rich, pungent, velvety pâté made with cheap and humble ingredients. Spread it on crackers with a little horseradish, or add it to your banh mi. It freezes very well (but takes a while to defrost, as it is dense).

Ingredients

  • 2 to 2-1/2 lbs chicken livers, rinsed and trimmed
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 onions
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • oil for frying the onion
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put the livers, the raw eggs in their shells, and one onion into a pot with the chicken broth.

  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for an hour. (This part looks very weird, but don't lose heart.) Drain off the broth and set aside the livers, onion, and eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them.

  3. Chop the other two onions. Set one aside and fry the other one in oil until crisp.

  4. Using a meat grinder or a food processor, grind up the livers, the boiled eggs, the boiled onion, the fried onion, and the raw onion.

  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and chill. It should be moist and spreadable. If it's too dry and crumbly, add a small amount of oil.

 

Tom Nichols' Grandmother's Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • boneless leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Slash the meat several times, about an inch deep.

  3. Fill the cuts with plenty of garlic powder.

  4. Slather olive oil all over the meat.

  5. Crust it with garlic salt. Sprinkle with all the oregano you own.

  6. Cover meat loosely with tinfoil and cook three hours. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

 

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

Chinese pork roast

Marinate the meat overnight, and leave six hours for cooking. Serve over rice

Ingredients

  • 10 lbs pork
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese five spice

Instructions

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together and marinate the meat overnight.

  2. Drain the marinade and put the meat on a pan with a lip. Cook at 300 for five hours. Cover with tinfoil if the meat is cooking too quickly.

  3. After five hours of cooking, pour the reserved marinade over the meat. Every ten minutes for an additional hour, baste the meat.

  4. Let the roast rest for ten minutes before carving.

 

 

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

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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. 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. 255: I’m in the zarn

I was kind of blah about writing this post today, but as I went through my photos, and gosh, we had some pretty good food this week. We had several meals where leftovers were successfully rolled into the next meal, which is always gratifying. Is it weird that I’m enjoying this food all over again by writing about it? That’s okay.  

SATURDAY
Burgers and chips

Nothing to report, but tasty.

Cooked outside, eaten outside, and you can see I haven’t killed my mother’s day flowers yet. 

SUNDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw

I don’t remember what I put in the slow cooker with the pork. I think some ginger ale and misc spices. I was planning to serve it with bottled sauce, so it really just needed to shred, not taste like anything in particular. I had mine with Carolina-style sauce, red onions, and jalapeños, and it hit the spot. The sweet, citrus-y sauce was great with the sharp onion and spicy jalapeño.

Cole slaw was real simple, just cabbage and carrots with a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, a little sugar, and pepper. I use half a cabbage and just throw the rest away, which feels terrible, but it’s just bowing to the inevitable. Yes, I know I can compost it. I won’t, though.

MONDAY
Chicken caesar salad with fresh duck egg dressing

I mentioned how much I like duck eggs last week. Well, my friend Roberta brought over some more, and I made some VERY POWERFUL caesar salad dressing with them. Duck egg yolks, fresh garlic, kosher salt, fresh lemon juice, a little mustard, and tons of freshly-grated parmesan, anchovies, and vegetable oil. 

I accidentally bought anchovies wrapped up around capers, but it didn’t seem like the time to be cowardly, so I threw them all in there, along with the fish oil. You are supposed to mix together most of the dressing ingredients and then slowly drip the egg yolk in one drop at a time, but life is short. I just put everything in the food processor. 

Jump to Recipe

I swear, if you put a fuse in this thing, you could blow up a city block.

I roasted up the chicken breasts with some basic seasonings and served it with Romaine lettuce, the dressing, some more shredded parmesan, and something called parmesan crisps, which I guess is fried cheese? They’re pretty good, but they put, like, eight in a bag. I know I’m giving my kids food issues when I say “okay, everybody gets four,” but that’s how it worked out. 

Anyway, the salad was delicious.

Big hit. There was way too much dressing, and I ended up throwing away the extra, because I’m brave enough to eat raw duck egg yolk, but not for more than 48 hours. 

TUESDAY
Roast beef, chimichurri, garlic knots, raw veg, etc.

Now this was a lovely meal. I suddenly remembered about chimichurri, which made me think of roast beef, which made me think of garlic knots, and then it just went from there. 

We ended up with those three elements, plus raw broccoli, raw sugar snap peas, some lovely cheddar left over from Opera Nite, and some crackers, and some feta, and some beautiful dry salami, and of course some last-chance duck egg caesar salad dressing. Everyone loved this meal. I have no idea who ended up with what, but there was something for everyone. 

I made the roast beef by giving it a heavy coating of kosher salt, pepper, and onion powder, and sloshing some red wine over it and cooking it uncovered for maybe 40 minutes in a 375 oven. It came out lovely and rare and juicy. 

The garlic knots were from frozen pizza dough. Chop into 12 pieces, roll into snakes, knot and pinch, and top with butter and garlic salt, and bake at 350 for 11 minutes or so. You can also bake these first and then roll them in melted butter, and maybe some parmesan, but I prefer this less-greasy type.

Oh, the other thing is that my food processor broke. The little tab that activates the motor snapped off, and there is no workaround that didn’t sound like an electric shock to me. So I tried making chimichurri in the blender, which only reminded me that I hate all blenders and think they should be illegal. In my madness, I then tried making chimichurri in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment. I knew it was stupid, but I just had to try. (Do not try this.) So finally I just put it in a bowl and chopped away for a very long time like a peasant. Of course it worked fine. Chopping works.

(I did have some regrets about being the kind of person who doesn’t bother to cut the stems off parsley, though. You can get away with that if you use a food processor! Anyway, my friend Tina is very graciously sending me her extra Cuisinart, and I’m SUPER EXCITED. Oh, the things I will process!

Anyway, if you don’t have chimichurri in your circulation, you really should. It goes on all kinds of foods and makes them taste like a summer day.

Jump to Recipe

The recipe is very adaptable to what kind of herbs you have and how spicy you like it. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pasta salad, leftover broccoli

Damien made the sandwiches. He not only puts mayo outside the sandwiches before frying them in butter, he puts mayo on the inside of the bread, for purposes of having more mayo. Did I mention he’s lost 65 pounds this year? He should write a book.

The pasta salad was nice. I used farfalle, and just threw in the rest of the chimichurri, plus some leftover salami and red onions and feta, and some sun dried tomatoes, and some sea salt. 

It really could have used a little brightening up with wine vinegar, but I was too lazy to open a bottle. 

THURSDAY
Chicken drumsticks, risotto, salad

Bit of a crazy day. I was super distracted, and I have no idea what I did, but the Instant Pot kept beeping and burning and not cooperating, and I kept accidentally eating leftover pasta salad even though it was almost supper time.  The risotto ended up quite creamy and delicious, but I had no idea what I would find when I finally opened the lid. (It’s a good recipe, I was just in another zarn.*)

Jump to Recipe

The drumsticks were uninspired, just salt and pepper and olive oil, roasted on a tray with drainage until they were done. Hey, hot food!

This picture makes me laugh. I couldn’t figure out how to position a lone drumstick so it didn’t look like it was pointing at something. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

At the kids’ request. (For those not in the know, this is a casserole of canned tuna mixed with cream of mushroom soup and egg noodles, topped with crushed corn flakes and potato chips, served with a dressing of ketchup and mayonnaise. If you know, you know.)

I forgot this is the feast day, though: Sacred Heart. I feel like it would be contrary to the spirit of the day by serving meat that happened to be all the meat we have leftover in the fridge, but on the other hand, meat. It’s a struggle. What are you all having? 

*This is a family joke I just remembered. There was some song that went, “It’s so hard to love you / when you’re in another’s arms” and some kid misheard it as “in another zarn,” which they took to mean “not here.” So whenever we saw someone spacing out or mentally absent, that became “in another zarn.” But I think I can truthfully say I was mostly in the zarn this week!

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.

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 248: Chomp!

If you look closely, you will see that I got some new plates from the dump. Look closely, I say!

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken on salad

Buffalo chicken (from frozen) cut into strips on salad greens with tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, crunchy fried onions, and blue cheese dressing. It’s just a good, fast, easy meal, and always more filling than I expect.

(Why I expect breaded chicken, cheese, and creamy dressing not to be filling is another question.)

SUNDAY
Pizza

As I promised myself I would do, I only made five extra-large pizzas. There were still leftovers, but only for 24 hours or so, so I’m on the right track.

I made two pepperoni, one cheese, one olive, and one with anchovies, sliced garlic, little blobs of pesto, red pepper flakes, and freshly-grated asiago, which is my new jam. I mean, it’s not jam, it’s cheese. 

Divine. Or at very least, numinous. 

MONDAY
Omelettes, sausages

According to tradition, I made nine lovely, tidy, fluffy half-moon omelettes to order for all the kids, and then a couple of sloppy, runny egg heaps for me and Damien. I don’t know why this is, but it’s how it happens every time. 

Tasted good, though. I had my egg heap with mozzarella, ham, and fried onions, with sausages on the side. 

I also got some help in the kitchen making the sausages. 

Corrie really seems to have a knack for cooking, and it seems to calm her hot little brain, which is no small feat. 

TUESDAY
Cold roast beef sandwiches, coleslaw

I had my sandwich with tomatoes and horseradish mayo. The coleslaw was just a basic mayo, sugar, cider vinegar, pepper deal.

I seasoned the roasts heavily with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and seared them all over in hot oil in a heavy pot. Then I put them in a baking dish with a little water and cooked them at 375 until they were done rare. It was much easier to cut the meat thinly after it had chilled for several hours, so that was nice. I’m a terrible meat cutter.

I skipped provolone on my sandwich so I could have coleslaw, if that makes sense. My current plan is to count calories during the day, and then have a dinner that isn’t insane. I’m giving it a month, and if I haven’t lost enough weight that way, I’ll FUCKING COUNT DINNER CALORIES IF THAT’S WHAT IT TAKES. Excuse me. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice; sautéed asparagus and sugar snap peas

This is a popular dish. It has that savory Korean BBQ taste but it’s sweet and not too spicy, so the kids like it. Comes together very quickly, and it’s cheap. 

Jump to Recipe

While the rice was finishing cooking, I rummaged around and found some asparagus and sugar snap peas, and they ended up tasting great together with just a little salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.

Jump to Recipe

They have a good springtime crunch and made a nice greeny side for the medium-spicy meat. Pretty, too. 

You can certainly substitute in all manner of vegetables. I totally forgot I had some red peppers, and those would have been a lovely addition. 

If we have time this weekend, we’re going to see if we can forage some fiddleheads, which taste a lot like asparagus. Although apparently if you undercook them, you spend the rest of your life pooping. Well, maybe I’ll just stick to store-bought asparagus. 

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

I was making supper and thinking about this and that when suddenly I looked down into the bowl and had no idea what I was cooking. I had just been throwing random things into the bowl and thinking about this and that. I pulled myself together before anything too weird made its way in, and just made sure there was plenty of sauce. And that’s-a my secret. 

That, and shredded asiago. 

Here’s my meatball recipe, for when you’re aware that you’re making meatballs. Jump to Recipe

FRIDAY
Tuna sandwiches, chips

I feel like the kids actually requested this meal, but I may be deluding myself. I do remember that I nabbed some $4 smoked salmon and $3 brie not too long ago, but the kids definitely don’t need to know about that. 

5 from 1 vote
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Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Sautéed asparagus and sugar snap peas

a simple vegetable side dish you can make in a few minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 3/4 lbs sugar snap peas
  • 2 tsp oil for cooking
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the white ends off the asparagus and chop it into 1-inch sections

  2. snip the stems off the sugar snap peas. Cut them in half if you like.

  3. In a pan, heat up the oil. Add the vegetables and cook them on high heat, and add salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Cook and keep the vegetables moving in the pan until a few of them are browned, but they are still crisp.

 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 244: Armed with cheeses

What with one thing and another, I never really went shopping this week (which I was supposed to do on Tuesday). I just kept running to the store and muddling through, and it ended up a pretty delicious week. We had already made plans for the kids to do some cooking, so that helped. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Tacos al pastor, plantain chips

Almost a very delicious meal. I made too much meat, which means I crowded the pan. I CROWDED THE PAN. Actually I didn’t even use a pan! There was so much meat, I attempted to broil it in the oven, and I crowded the oven.

So the flavors were all there, but rather than being seared and juicy, the meat was in sort of wads, covered in a flavorful paste. Rather sad when you think what could have been. 

I cooked the pineapple separately on the stove, and they turned out great. Gosh, I love seared pineapple.

I more or less followed this recipe, except I used pineapple juice instead of orange juice, and I used too much pineapple in the marinade and didn’t reserve enough for the tacos. The extra pineapple pulp did not help the pasty wad situation. But it’s a relatively simple recipe, and I admired the combination of ancho chili and pineapple. Very warming, and then you get your lime and cilantro and red onion, and it’s at least potentially a little party. 

Guys, I’m not a very good cook. I’m adventurous, but I have terrible technique, and no respect for recipes, and I panic and make bad decisions that I know are bad decisions. The only thing that keeps me going is the promise that I can take pictures of food. Anyway, we’re gonna revisit this recipe when it’s warm enough to cook on the grill. I did remember to warm up the tortillas for once, so that was nice. 

SUNDAY
Stuffed shells, fried mozzarella sticks

A Lucy and Irene meal! Irene made the stuffed shells, which turned out to be a bit more work than she had bargained for, but she forged ahead.

Jump to Recipe

They turned out perfect!

Lucy made fried mozzarella sticks, which we haven’t made before. Much easier than I expected, and definitely worth the trouble.

Jump to Recipe

Basically you slice each string cheese stick down the middle, then dredge in flour, then in egg with a little milk, then panko crumbs, then egg again, then crumbs again, then freeze, then deep fry. 

Also delicious. We put them in the oven for a few minutes to make sure the cheese was melted, although that probably wasn’t necessary, as you can see it oozing out. The outside was crisp and crunchy and the inside was hot and melty. Perfect.  

A lovely cheesy meal. And, uh, we had cheesecake for dessert. Look, we like cheese. 

I don’t know if the kids had any great sense of accomplishment for what they produced, but I was proud of them, and so was Corrie. 

Oh, and last Friday, Elijah made the mac and cheese, which is some knowledge he especially felt like he needed to be armed with before he leaves the nest. 

Turned out great. My big secret about mac and cheese is just a normal white sauce with plenty of whatever cheese you have lying around, and then a nice squirt of mustard and/t several sloshes of tabasco sauce mixed in before you add it to the macaroni. And very buttery bread crumbs for the top. We use about three pounds of raw macaroni for the family, if you’re interested (and we generally have leftovers.)

So at least three of the kids are now armed with cheese skills. I made a big effort to just give directions to them, and not do it myself, which is a skill I am learning.

MONDAY
English muffin pizzas

This was the meal Sophia chose to make. They turned out great, but I didn’t do as well with my end, and complained that there weren’t enough, even though I never told her how many to make. Also I forgot to take a picture. 

TUESDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

I think Damien made a paste of oil and garlic and salt and various things, pan seared the meat, and then roasted it in the oven. Whatever he did, it was fabulous as always. 

Okay, here’s my hot sandwich dilemma. What if you want a toasted bun and also melted cheese? If you put it all together and then put it in the oven to melt the cheese, only the outside of the bun gets toasted, and the inside gets soggy, especially if you use horseradish sauce. But if you toast the inside of the bun first, and then put the stuff in and toast it again to melt the cheese, then the bun gets over toasted. It’s a problem. 

Am I doing Lent right? 

WEDNESDAY
Aldi pizza

Nothing to report. It’s okay pizza, and pretty cheap for the size. 

THURSDAY
One-pan chicken thighs with butternut squash and garlic, green salad

Drop, drop, slow tears. 

(This is the butternut squash fresh out of the microwave, where I cooked it on high for four minutes to make it yielding enough to cut, peel, and seed. It weeps.)

I changed up my normal “one-pan chicken and whatnot” recipe a bit, and I liked it. I added whole cloves of garlic, lots of paprika, hot pepper flakes, and a little maple syrup with the olive oil. I think I also put kosher salt, pepper, and maybe thyme. 

Could have stayed in the oven a few minutes longer to get a little darker roast on the garlic, but it was tasty. A little spicy but just mainly warming, faintly sweet. 

And several of us ate a green vegetable. It’s been a while. 

FRIDAY
I think seared scallops in cream sauce over fettuccine. 

Ahem, continuing our spare and penitential menu. It’s not my fault the stores put seafood on sale for Lent! I grabbed a few bags a few weeks ago and stashed them in the freezer, and Damien volunteered to make something delicious with them. He said something about mixing cheese in with the pasta water so it coats the noodles.  (Although he said that before he spent the morning digging through the ice so he could park his car next to my car so he could jump start it because I left the keys in it overnight.)

Some of the kids are fairly seafood averse, so I was trying to explain how accessible and inoffensive scallops are. If you are in this situation, I suggest avoiding the term “fish gumdrops.” It doesn’t help. 

And now I’d like to point out that I cooked supper exactly twice this week: The tacos al pastor, and the chicken with squash. We had frozen pizza once, and everything else was Genuine Hot Dinner Made By Someone Else.  Ghost of mother who has escaped babyland is here to say: Someday it could happen to youuuuuuu!

Stuffed shells

Just a basic recipe. You can add meat to the sauce or spinach to the cheese, or anything that strikes your fancy. Serves about 10.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-oz boxes jumbo shells
  • 2 32-oz tubs ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4-5 cups pasta sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.

  3. Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof pan or dish. Stuff each shell with about 1/2-1/3 cup of cheese filling and lay the stuffed shells close together.

  4. Top with the rest of the pasta sauce, and sprinkled the remaining mozzarella on top of that. Cover loosely with foil and cook for 45 minutes or longer, until it's bubbly. 

 

Fried mozzarella sticks

Ingredients

  • 18 sticks of string cheese, split lengthwise
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2+ panko bread crumbs
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs together with the milk in a shallow dish. Put the flour in another shallow dish, and the bread crumbs in a third.

  2. Take each split cheese stick, roll it in flour, dip it in egg, and roll it in panko crumbs, then dip it in egg again, then panko crumbs again.

  3. When you've coated all the cheese sticks, cover and freeze them for at least an hour.

  4. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. You want enough oil that you can submerge the cheese sticks. If you put a wooden spoon in the oil and lots of little bubbles collect on it, the oil is hot enough.

  5. Fry the cheese sticks for just a few minutes a few at a time until they are lightly browned all over.

  6. Drain them on a paper towel and serve while still piping hot. If the cheese isn't melted inside, you can pop the cheese sticks in the oven for a few minutes.

What’s for supper? Vol. 233: The secret ingredient

Back in the saddle again! I didn’t do a WFS on Friday because I already did a Thanksgiving recipe round-up, and the rest of the week was just basic food made while prepping for Thanksgiving. If you twist my arm, I can share some pie photos, though:

This is my hugs and kisses salted bourbon pecan pie, with which I hoped to ingratiate myself with the eight-year-old (it worked):

Jump to Recipe

This is my “oh no, this pie is full of buttons or something” apple pie, which I made while Damien was telling me something upsetting about the Legion, and which made me forget that I was making pie, so I just slapped a plain crust on and then slashed at it a bunch of times. When I calmed down, I tried to make it less of an anger pie, so I made some long slits at an angle and folded the triangles down, then stuck a bunch of dough circles into the openings. It certainly was a pie.

I also made some pumpkin pies, a chocolate cream pie, and another apple pie, but they weren’t much to look at. 

I will share my cranberry brie tart recipe again, because it’s a great one for Christmas or New Year’s, too – very pretty, and easy to make. I messed mine up eleven different ways, including thinking I had phyllo dough when really it was puff pastry, and I ran out of honey, and just screwed it up generally. They just weren’t as nice, and I overbaked them, so the brie kind of vanished into the dough. Still nice, though. Just not top notch.

Jump to Recipe

This year, we also had the best gravy I’ve ever made. I have no idea what made the difference, but it was just so rich, dark, and delicious. And salty. Probably that was it. I really like salt. 

One final picture: We didn’t have guests and didn’t set a formal table, but I did ask a child — a child who is old enough to drive! — to open up some cans of cranberry sauce and arrange them so they look fancy and nice. This is what he did:

Onward and upward! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Friday we had Thanksgiving redux, and Saturday we were ready for something completely different but very easy. Aldi pizza it was. 

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips

I had bought a couple of roasts when they were on sale a while back, and forgot to take them out of the freezer in time to roast them Sunday, so they weren’t fully thawed. It turns out this is actually a life hack, and keeps the center nice and rare like we like it.

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

MONDAY
Chicken parm sandwiches, cheesy bread sticks

I went shopping on Monday, rather than the weekend, for fear of the plague rats, I mean fellow human beings who are worthy of being treated with dignity but dammit, it’s December and masks are now officially keeping your face warm so just WEAR THEM for crying out loud, sheeeesh, and we got home extremely late. We had ciabatta rolls with frozen chicken patties, topped with a slice of provolone and a scoop of warm sauce.

If you, too, were wondering, it is fine to call this chicken parm even though there is no parm involved, as the dish was originally from Parma, Italy, which is coincidentally where Aldi was invented. Check here if you are still reading: ___ YES ____NO

Not a spectacular meal, but quick and somewhat more satisfying than just frozen chicken burgers. 

TUESDAY
Ham, peas, garlic mashed potatoes

The favorite meal of a surprising number of Fishers. I did get a pre-cooked ham, which makes it super easy, but forgot my (literal) ham hack, which is to cut it up while it’s cold and then heat it in the oven. So boo hoo, so people had to heat theirs up in the microwave. 

I made ten whole pounds of mashed potatoes, and boiled an entire peeled head of garlic along with the water, and then dumped in a whole canister of parmesan along with the butter and milk. RECOMMENDED, as long as you like being fat, which, you know, [ragged panting sounds] evidently. 

Jump to Recipe

I also recommend using Aldi’s sweet and spicy mustard on your ham. It’s nicely tangy and really dresses it up. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ribs, risotto, roasted acorn squash rings

A pretty good meal that could be thrown together in about half an hour, if you have an Instant Pot. Hwitch I do. And which now sports this amazing steam-breathing dragon, thanks to my friend Laura.

 

 

(It’s actually a useful device because the valve sends steam straight up in the air, so if your IP is under a cabinet, it can wreck things. This diverts the steam to the side. There are several cute styles for sale on Amazon.)

Sadly, I only had a little white wine in the house (somebody drank it, me), so it was a tiny bit bland. Great texture, though, very melty and creamy. I’ve updated my recipe to include butter and a longer cook time, and it’s a vast improvement. 

The pork ribs, I just sprinkled heavily with salt and pepper on both sides and broiled them, turning once. 

Actual footage of me, turning once:

 

via GIPHY

I tried a new recipe for acorn squash, and it was okay, not amazing. You cut the top off and scoop out the seeds, then cut the squash into thin rings. This is the neat part, as they come out looking like 70’s flowers. 

Then you brush the rings with maple syrup, olive oil, sriracha, and salt and pepper, and broil them. I don’t know, they were just kind of greasy and spicy. I wanted to like them, but either they need different proportions, or better quality syrup, or something. You were supposed to sprinkle cilantro over the top, but I don’t see how that would have helped. I thought the kids would like them because they were at least cute to look at, but they simply admired them from afar while shoveling in more risotto. 

THURSDAY
Bibimbap

It’s bibeen too long! I got the pork sliced nice and thin and marinating in a gochujang sauce in the morning

Jump to Recipe

and set some carrots to pickling

Jump to Recipe

and even measured out the water and rice in the IP ahead of time. None of the stores had alfalfa sprouts or pea shoots, so I grabbed some baby spinach and bok choy, plus some crunchy noodles. Then I lost the spinach I bought, but it was still lovely. I love this meal. Fry up them eggs in hot oil and give them a crunchy edge, but leave the yolks runny. 

I don’t know if I was especially hungry or what, but this was the best bibimbap I’ve ever made. I made myself a second egg when I was halfway through, just to prolong the experience.

The runny egg yolk with the spicy tender pork and the fluffy rice and the crunchy noodles and bok choy — oh boy. We’ve had a lot of rainy, dreary days and this hit the spot. This is a popular meal because people can pick whatever they want and assemble their own bowls. One kid just has rice and egg, and that’s fine with me.

FRIDAY

Friday I drove up north a ways to go see my mom in the nursing home, then did some Christmas shopping, and when I got home I was so wiped out, I just made a plate of scrambled eggs and a tray of toast, and burned it all. The kids were very nice about it. There was also some leftover risotto, which helped. 

Oh, about the title. The secret ingredient is salt. Oh, and after most of the kids went to bed, Damien and I sliced up a baguette and toasted it with olive oil and freshly ground salt and pepper, then topped it with brie, smoked salmon, and cheap caviar. [heart explodes]

Here’s some recipe cards! Have fun, you crazy kids, and don’t forget the salt. 

Salted bourbon pecan pie filling

This pecan pie is somewhat more mellow and less screamingly sweet than some. A one-crust pie, but it's nice if you have some extra pie dough to make leaf or other shapes to arrange over the top.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon
  • 1-2 cups raw pecans (whole)
  • sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. In a standing mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until well combined.

  3. Add eggs one at a time until well combined. Then add the maple syrup, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Continue mixing until well combined.

  4. Add half of the pecans and stir in with a fork. Pour the filling into an unbaked pie shell.

  5. Carefully arrange the rest of the pecans over the top of the filling.

  6. Bake pie for 45-55 minutes. Center will still be slightly jiggly when it comes out of the oven, but it will firm up.

  7. Cool completely. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

 

Cranberry brie tarts

This recipe looks complicated, but you can simplify or alter it however you like. Basically you want some kind of pastry, brie, cranberries with sugar, and honey, and an herb on top. A delicious and beautiful little appetizer, great for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • 6-8 oz brie
  • small bunch fresh sage or thyme, coarsely chopped

cranberries:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter for cranberries

honey mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter for honey mixture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

  2. In a little pot, combine the honey, the butter, and the extract. Heat through and set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix the cranberries with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Set aside.

  4. Cut brie into 24 equal pieces and set aside.

  5. Prepare a 24-hole mini cupcake pan with butter or spray. You can also use a full-size cupcake pan, but the tarts will be a little unwieldy and won't hold together as well.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into twelve equal stacks. Cover the dough with a damp cloth while you're working so the dough doesn't get brittle.

  7. Pull out one stack of phyllo dough squares and use half the squares to line a cupcake tin, fanning them out to make a little cup. Make sure the bottom of the tin has several layers of dough, so it won't fall apart when you take it out of the pan.

  8. When you have arranged all the pastry cups, drizzle them with half the honey-butter mixture.

  9. Lay a piece of brie in the bottom of each cup, then put a scoop of sugared cranberries on top of that. Drizzle with the rest of the honey-butter mixture.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or so until the pastry is just golden brown.

  11. Top each cup with a bit of chopped herbs.

  12. Let the tarts sit in the pan for five minutes before serving. Serve hot.

 

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.

 

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

 

Korean sauce for bibimbap or other dishes with meat

A sweet, spicy, savory Korean sauce for cooking, marinating, or brushing on to grill. Susceptible to many adjustments if you like it sweeter or spicier, thicker or thinner. This recipe makes enough to cook 4-5 lbs of meat.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or plain vinegar
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients together. If you're cooking in the Instant Pot, you may want to add 1/4 cup water or so to make sure there is enough liquid to prevent burning. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 226: In which we dedicate an entire day to dumplings and do not regret it

Hello, I have bronchitis. It’s a pretty mild case, but I’m milking it for all it’s worth, so let’s go ahead and say that’s why I haven’t written anything all week. And my car started leaking gas and the headlights both went out, which, you know, me too. So poor Damien has been doing all the driving as well as all his own work. It has not been a good week. 

We did cook, though! A few nice meals this week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Pork spiedies, cole slaw, chips

Here you can witness my complete disregard for cuts of meat. I got two hunks of pork and I don’t even know what they were, except that they were definitely two very different cuts. It always works out fine. This is actually the most important part of enjoying your own cooking: Just not caring that much. I guess it works for other people’s cooking, too. If I had to come up with a motto, it would be: Just eat it, okay? 

Most of the wild mint has survived the cold weather, so I added plenty to this nice spiedie marinade, which is worth the slight hassle, and marinated the meat for several hours. . 

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Then I spread the pork in pans with mushrooms and red onion wedges and broiled it until it had a little char.

We ate it on sandwich rolls with mayonnaise, and it was tasty. I like this combination of meat, onion, and mushroom, because they all end up getting cooked to the right point at the same time. Juicy, tender meat, crunchy onions, and the mushrooms grabbed up so much flavor. 

There was leftover cabbage from last week’s fish tacos, so I made a simple cole slaw, and we had chips. 

SUNDAY
Pork dumplings, hot and sour soup, white rice, sesame broccoli

Sunday, we expected (but didn’t quite manage) to be home all day, so we planned a rather elaborate meal. I thought it was delicious, but definitely a learning process. 

I made the pork filling and sauce for the dumplings ahead of time, and then Damien and I experimented with different methods of forming the dumplings. I used this recipe.

We ended up with about eighty, I think.

The dough is not very pliable, but as long as you don’t overstuff them, they hold together well enough with a dab of water and a pinch. I ended up putting a teaspoon of filling in the center, folding it corner-to-corner, and then making crimps along the edge. 

When we had a good supply, Damien started cooking them. The recipe calls for frying them in oil on both sides and then adding water to steam them. 

This resulted in a gluey mess, and it was not a cooking method conducive to many batches. Some of the dumplings held together, but many of them got both slobbery and burnt. So we decided, hey, it’s our food, we can do what we want. So he just fried the rest and put them in the oven for a bit, to make sure they were fully cooked, and they were absolutely delicious that way.

We may have overcooked them a bit, because we’re a little paranoid about undercooked pork, but they were so nice. Crunchy and crisp on the outside, wonderfully savory inside, and the dipping sauce was perfect.

I won’t change a thing about the filling ingredients. It tasted exactly like what they serve at our favorite restaurants. I considered making handmade wrappers, but luckily Damien hunted down some readymade wonton wraps at the Coop. 

Next time, we will probably deep fry them, though, so they get more evenly cooked. There will be a next time! I bought a little dumpling press (at 3:30 a.m., perfectly normal) and that should speed up the assembly next time. 

The soup was another story. I used this recipe from Damn Delicious. It was SO so salty. Next time I will use low sodium soy sauce (which the recipe did call for, and I ignored!), and probably less of it. It also never took on that slightly — what’s a nice word for slimy? — consistency that you look for, but was just brothy. I just don’t ever have luck thickening things, and that’s a fact. 

But I loved everything else about it. It was sour and tangy and rich and full of weird stuff, shiitake mushrooms, firm tofu, bamboo shoots, and those wonderful silky egg strands suspended all through it. If you have a cold, a bowl of this will clear out your head pretty quick.

All in all, a wonderful meal.

We had vanilla bean ice cream and fortune cookies for dessert. I was too wiped out to cut up the pineapples I bought. 

I ended up eating the soup for lunch for three days and then regretfully getting rid of the rest. I made way, way too much of it, and it was just time. Next time, I’ll make something a little more accessible, like won ton soup, so more people will eat it! But I don’t regret making something that I really wanted to eat myself.  

Oh, I did save out the leftover dumpling wraps, slice them thin, and fry them up in hot sesame oil, and the kids absolutely loved them. So light and crunchy.

We also had roasted sesame broccoli, but we ran out of oven space and had to eat it for a second course. Here’s my simple roast sesame broccoli recipe.

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Always popular.

MONDAY
Hamburgers

Back to basics! We may have had a vegetable, but I doubt it. 

TUESDAY
Chicken burgers

I feel like I did something to fancy these up a bit, but there’s no photographic evidence, so probably we just had chicken burgers.

WEDNESDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

Chuck roast was $1.99 a pound, so I scooped up three nice big ones. I slathered them with olive oil and absolutely smothered them with a combination of kosher salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Then I put them in a low oven, I think maybe 250, for about an hour and a half. And that’s it. It would have been swell with some overnight marinating or fresh herbs or whatever, but this was great. 

My policy is to cook it rare, and if the little cretins want to throw it in the microwave, they can.

I sliced it as thinly as I could and then poured the drippings over it.

Moist and flavorful. We had it on kaiser rolls with mayo, tomatoes, and muenster cheese. I was too impatient to toast it and melt the cheese.

And onion rings from frozen. I do love onion rings.

THURSDAY
Pizza

I couldn’t find pepperoni in either supermarket, so all I got was black olives, and then mooched around for whatever else I could find for toppings. I ended up with one plain cheese pizza, one olive, one olive and ricotta cheese, one ricotta cheese, red onion, fresh garlic, and fresh basil

and one, ahem, ricotta, tomato, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and broccoli.

The broccoli isn’t quite what I was hunting for. I think what I really want is an eggplant pizza. What I really want is to be lost and freezing cold from a sudden drenching rain in Rome, and to duck into a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and order a piping hot eggplant calzone, and have it be the best thing I’ve ever experienced with my mortal flesh. But failing that, I may try eggplant pizza next time. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese.

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We certainly have a lot of cheese in this house. We certainly do. 

Okay, that’s it! Boy, now I’m thinking about dumplings again. Soon, my pretties. Soon. 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

 

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. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Baked macaroni and cheese

This is a vague recipe. You can change the proportions of the ingredients to make it thicker or thinner, more or less cheesy. I don't care!

Servings 12

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 225: Salvation is from the jus

This week of food started off with a bang, courtesy of Damien’s cooking, and then quickly resumed whimpering, courtesy of mine. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil and provolone

Part II of Clara’s birthday meal. She couldn’t decide if she wanted chicken soup with matzo balls or this amazing chicken dish, so she got both, eventually. 

It’s a truly wonderful dish. You pound the chicken flat, bread, and fry it, then top each piece with a basil leaf and a slice of provolone, then pour a scoop of hot marinara sauce over the top, which melts the cheese into a lovely little envelope for the basil. The panko bread crumb crust holds the sweet, chunky marinara sauce very well, and it’s just fabulous. 

 

Very time consuming, but, as I always tell Damien while he’s doing all the work, totally worth all the work.

He follows the Deadspin recipe and it comes out slightly different every time, mostly due to the sauce, but it’s always excellent.

SUNDAY
Burgers and chips

Oh, we went apple picking on Sunday! Perfect weather, sunny and cool, with the trees at their absolute peak of color. Lots of reds this year. We love Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, VT for apple picking. It’s up in the mountains, and they carry wagon loads of people up into the orchards — pulled by a tractor, but I remember they used a horse when I was little. There is a giant glacial rock to climb on, and they keep a nice little petting zoo. 

A few of the kids were too cool for apples, so I called them on the way home to get them to prep the burger patties. So there!

MONDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

I had three lovely roasts, which Damien seared and then cooked slowly with lots of onions and garlic, then sliced. He made a nice pot of jus, too, using soy sauce instead of Worcestershire, and it was mighty tasty. 

I virtuously had an apple instead of chips

and then unvirtuously dunked my salad in the jus.

It’s jus the way I am. 

TUESDAY
Nachos

Maybe the worst nachos I’ve ever had. I was basically sleep walking, and managed to both burn and underseason the meat, so it was pretty, pretty delicious. Anyway, they ate it. 

WEDNESDAY
Omelettes, hash browns

You never know what you’re going to get when you set out to make eleven omelettes. Will they miraculously fold into tidy, fragrant, fluffy, eggy envelopes with tasty secrets inside? Or will you get a slobbery heap of singed yellow rubber? No one can say!

Wednesday was a lucky day (and I did use a huge amount of butter with each omelette, so that probably helped), and they turned out pretty good.

Even the ones with lots of fillings more or less held together. This one has sausage, red onion, scallions, mushrooms, and mozzarella. 

THURSDAY
Bowls of things!! and hot dogs

On Thursday I didn’t even remember to take the hot dogs out of the freezer. So I ended up boiling them, admitting there weren’t really enough, and hastily throwing leftovers into the microwave, plus we had some Chex Mix. It was actually a pretty popular meal. 

I would honestly serve leftovers every day, except at some point you have to, you know, make the food to be left over. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

For the fish tacos, I have flour tortillas, batter fried fish from frozen, shredded cabbage, avocado slices, sour cream, salsa or hot sauce, lime wedges, and cilantro. 

 

Most of the avocados were okay this week, anyway. So we’ve got that going for us. 

P.S. It turns out I already titled a post “Salvation is from the jus,” but that was like 150 food posts ago, and I assume everyone who remembers it is dead now.