What’s for supper? Vol. 176: Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation

Oh Friday! I was whooping it up in Princeton, NJ for a big part of the week. Great trip, wonderful people, tiny airplane, glad to be home. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips, guacamole

Corrie is always trying to get me to watch food videos with her, and I kept saying “not now.” So, as she says: “I like food videos, so I may as wewll make my own!” This video will make you feel better about the cleanliness of your food preparation area, about your efficiency with avocados, and most of all, about your Spanish. But it may make you wish you had a cooking companion and videographer like I have.

I don’t want to hear and kvetching about the vertical camera! She’s four!

For the quesadillas, I drizzled the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled on plenty of chili lime powder, then roasted it. I think I either left the house or went to lie down at this point, because I don’t remember making quesadillas, but I do remember eating some. 

And very good they are, quesadillas that somebody else made.

SUNDAY
Grilled chicken, bratwurst, pork ribs, and shrimp with mango salsa; chips and guacamole; strawberries and ice cream

Damien’s mom came by to watch Into the Spiderverse with the kids, and Damien smoked up a feast.

Now, here is where you may begin to notice a certain theme: Mandatory Meat vs. Optional Meat. I like meat? I really do. But I can imagine a happy life without it, unlike some husbands. I am most certainly not complaining! It just wouldn’t occur to me to cook a meal featuring four different meats; and it wouldn’t occur to him to go to a restaurant and not order meat. I guess between the two of us, we even out. As with so many other things. 

He used the same rub for the ribs as he does for the chicken, but for the ribs, he put some mustard on first, before smoking it. (I think he seared it on the grill and then moved it to a smoker? His ways are mysterious.)

He boiled the brats in beer and onions before grilling them. The shrimp, he marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder, and a little salt and pepper, and skewered them on skewers that had been soaked in water, then grilled them. 

So good. That chicken is so juicy and the skin is so crisp.

Have I told you about Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation? He wanted a really big grill, but we don’t especially care for, you know, paying for things. We keep buying cheap grills and then leaving them out in the rain to rust, and that’s no good.

So he got a bunch of cinderblocks and built up this giant monolith for the base. Then he has an assortment of little blocks and chunks, grates of various sizes, chimneys, tongs, different charcoals and whatnot, and he just builds to suit, depending on how much fire he wants, how high the grate and how much air circulations, how many different fires he needs at the same time, and so on.

He does want one big grill to go over the whole thing, for when we have a lot of guests. And today is the day I found out he’s too much of a fancy man to even consider stealing a shopping cart. 

Anyway, the mango salsa was pretty tasty. I did say I was interested in mangos! So pretty, too. 

I do like the taste, but I’d probably buy them just for how the peels look. 

I’ll put a recipe card at the end. Oh, it’s so good to eat outside again! Even the plates are happy. 

Oh, mangoes have not seen the last of me. 

And I do believe Corrie is firmly in the “carnem et carnem solum” camp. 

MONDAY
Creamy lemon sausage pasta

I saw this recipe in the New York Times and it looked easy enough, and everybody likes lemon and cheese. But I figured I better get some meat in there, for the more carnal amongst us. I also tweaked the proportions so there was more sauce per pasta.

So, you just cook pasta, then cook up the sausage, then mix it together with ricotta and parmesan, lemon juice and lemon zest, salt and pepper, and some of the pasta water to thin it out, and stir all that into the cooked pasta, and put some fresh basil and red pepper flakes on top. 

It was good? It was almost good. It was not great. It was filling, and a little odd, but definitely cheap and easy. I would have liked to have the lemon and cheese filling in ravioli, probably; but as a sauce, and with the sausage, I was not entranced. I don’t know if it was the combination of sausage and lemon, or if this just wasn’t the dish for us. Oh well, onward and upward. 

TUESDAY

I was gone, wasn’t I! On Tuesday I did a Theology on Tap with the beautiful and indefatigable Kait Mayer, who also took me out to eat beforehand at Triumph Brewing, where I had . . . 

Well, look, now we’re back to the difference between me and Damien. I ordered the tempura mushroom banh mi, and I stand by it. The mushroom had a lovely, crisp coating, the bun was soft and giving, and the shredded vegetables were copious, flattered winsomely with a spicy mayo just as the gods ordained. It was delicious. 

WEDNESDAY

I had lunch at EFES Mediterranean Grill with my Aunt Joan and Uncle Lloyd. Lovely little place! Athough I wanted to want lamb dumplings or something along those lines, it was tremendously hot and humid, so I just ordered an appetizer, which was plenty. Homemade yogurt with spinach and walnuts with a basket of pita, and there were also little cups of sauce — something orange and very warming, and something minty and cooling. I got a very clear message that I need more mint in my life.

Then we did a mini-tour of Princeton campus, and then I mooched around the Princeton Art Museum. I only had time for the ancient art gallery, which was, as the kids say, extremely my jam. I posted a bunch of photos on Instagram. What a gorgeous place, and free admission. 

Then the gracious Claire Gmachl and the monsignor took me out for dinner at the Blue Point Grill, where I had arctic char and wild rice. I had to ask what arctic char is, since I am a bumpkin. It turns out it’s like salmon, but more salmony. And I fully expected to see a wiggly red line appear under “salmony” as I typed, but it turns out salmony is so a word. Then I thought maybe it was some obscure legal term, like simony, only more salmony. Oh, you want it in a sentence? Then how about The Sporting Review’s observation:

“This stream, which forms the Cascade de Con, abounds with a delicious little trout, the best flavoured and the most salmony I ever ate.”

Or perhaps this 1906 entry in Horticulture by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society will satisfy you:

“The color is pretty much the shade seen in Queen Alexandra, a salmony bronze, one of the kinds commonly called off-colors…”

This seems interesting to me. But I did not sleep a lot this week. I did go ahead and look up “arctic char” to see if the internet would rush to offer the information that it’s rather salmony, but all I learned was that its distribution is circumpolar. I feel that same way myself. 

After my talk, I got to hang out with Tom and Elizabeth McDonald, who are SO MUCH FUN. And I have a photo which I am currently saving in case I ever need to blackmail Tom. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien insisted on making dinner while I lay down. Benny brought me dinner in bed:

Then they went to the beach while I lay down some more! I hope my current life isn’t the opposite of working out your purgatory on earth so you don’t have to do it after you die, because I feel like I’m racking up a lot of rewards that I haven’t quite earned.

FRIDAY

It says on the blackboard “giant choc chip pancake – eggs” and I don’t feel like I can argue with that, even though I’m sitting here smelling the pancakes they are making themselves for brunch. 

Coming up: our giant family July 4th cookout and mostly-legal fireworks display! We’ll be having, you guessed it, lots of kinds of meat, plus all the usual summer foods — potato salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, and a variety of refreshing beverages. What should we do for dessert? The kids want a cake in the shape of a flag, with red and blue berries, but I’m fairly anti-cake in the summer. I think we have done ice cream cups and a giant mountain of cookies in the past. That may be perfect; but I’d love to hear other ideas, too. Whatcha got?

Mango salsa

Good for shrimp, pork, chicken, or just tortilla chips

Ingredients

  • 6 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 med red onion, diced
  • 1 large jalapeño, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced or sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • chili powder to taste
  • lime juice to taste

Instructions

  1. That's it, dude.

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

5 from 1 vote
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White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

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

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 139: Cashew! Gesundheit.

Looking back, I’m shocked at how much actual hot food I prepared, considering how hot and steamy it was all week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, strawberries

That’s what it says on my menu blackboard. I have no memory of Saturday. What a long week.

SUNDAY
Smoked ribs, cole slaw, biscuits

I got two huge racks of pork ribs, and Damien put a rub on them the night before with mustard, then smoked the ribs on the grill for several hours.

This is our first attempt at smoking meat. Big success! Very juicy and flavorful.

Although cutting up the ribs afterwards is always such a struggle.

Is there some special trick or tool to make this part easier, or do you just have to hack away until it’s done?

I made biscuits using Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I had my doubts about these biscuits, because someone had put a bunch of pink chalk in the bottle of vinegar. I’m pretty good at ignoring things that people have put into my food, but chalk seemed like something that might change the chemical balance of vinegar, I dunno. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue, because even though I can read, I didn’t read the part where they are called “self rising biscuits” or the part where it called for self-rising flour, and I used regular flour. And those biscuits self stayed flat. I mean, I ate four, but they were flat.

We also had a good, snappy cole slaw that Lena made. Recipe card at the end.

My father came over, much to Corrie and Benny’s delight. They traded magic tricks, and my father provided this impressive multi-cake.

MONDAY
Deli sandwich bake

New recipe! A friend recommended this Italian Layer Bake, which calls for crescent roll dough top and bottom, with deli meats and cheese and egg layered inside. I like the idea of it, but was somewhat skeptical about all that egg, so I modified it to be less casserole-like and more sandwich-like.

So I just spread out crescent roll dough (and it turns out that, sometime in the last few years, I’ve changed from being someone who gets a kick out of popping open those cardboard tubes into someone who trembles in fear and then shrieks involuntarily when they burst open. I don’t like carnival rides anymore, either. I guess real life is thrilling enough. Anyway, I’m drinking more) in a pan, then layered all kinds of deli meats and cheese

then put more dough on top. When I say “put,” I mean I unrolled two cans without much trouble, but the third one was a travesty, all shredded and stuck together, so I just stretched out the bits as best I could to cover everything up.

Then I glopped some beaten egg on top (I would say “brushed, but I couldn’t find either of my pastry brushes, and the kids acted like my using that combination of words was the last bit of evidence they needed for my involuntary commitment; so I glopped it on) and sprinkled it with garlic powder and dried minced onion. I considered poppy seeds, too.

Then I put it in the oven covered for about 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 15-20 until it was a little brown on top.

It was very tasty! The pieced-together dough on top was not a problem at all. I cut it into twelve squares for twelve people, and then sliced the squares into, you know, slicees. Very filling and yummy, a very cheery food.

Definitely more brunchy than dinner-y, but definitely not breakfast-y. This would make great party food, and you can make just about any alterations you like. Everyone liked it. It was a little hard on my stomach, to be honest, but I’m old and digestively fragile. Please don’t tell me about probiotics. I’d rather suffer.

TUESDAY
Cashew chicken lettuce wraps and rice

‘Nother new recipe! This one was more popular with the older set. Pretty easy: You just cut up chicken and sauté it, dump in a simple sauce sauce and let it thicken, throw in the nuts, and spoon everything into lettuce leaves. Throw some chopped scallions on top.

It calls itself wraps, but it was too messy for any real wrapping, so we just ate it out of the lettuce. It was quite flavorful and didn’t really need the sriracha sauce I added at the end. Good basic Asian sauce, wonderful texture, easy to make ahead and then cook in a few minutes before dinner. Will probably make again. I simplified the ingredients and cooking process from the Better From Scratch recipe above.

I made the rice in the Instant Pot while the meat was cooking. I adore the Instant Pot on hot, muggy days. You can just tell it what to do and then get the hell out of the kitchen.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Taught another kid how to make pizza. We are now a five-pizza family, did I mention?.Two pepperoni, two cheese, and one half-and-half, because I forgot to buy olives.

We like to sprinkled garlic powder, oregano, and parmesan cheese on top before baking. I go back and forth on the merits of putting the pepperoni and other toppings under the mozzarella. I do like having a juicy surprise waiting under the cheese (and yes, that will be the opening sentence in my upcoming book, entitled It’s A Mystery Why I’m Fat), but the little crisp edges of pepperoni are also very fine. What a world.

THURSDAY
Pulled pork, steak fries, cole slaw, buffalo chicken salad, chocolate cake

Another self-imposed incoherent potluck meal. I put a pork in the crock pot with a can of beer and half a jar of jalapenos and juice, but I started too late, and it wasn’t really shreddy by dinner time, so I put it in the standing mixer, which got me something like cat food.

Dora wanted more buffalo chicken salad, so she won the honor of making it. I’ll add a recipe card at the end, but here’s what it looks like from a previous meal:

She also wanted to make chocolate cake with the little girls, and who am I to stand in the way of progress? I forgot to take pictures, though.

FRIDAY
Tuna burgers

We’ve recommitted to strict meatless Fridays, as a mild penance for our diocese. This is more of a penance for me, as it means I’ll go to the trouble of making tuna burgers and getting my hands all smelly, and they kids will throw them away and eat cereal. So I’m propping up the diocese and General Mills. Let God sort it out.

And here are the recipe cards. I can see that the categories are a little wonky on some of these, but I’m too pressed for time to fix them now! I’ll get the hang of this. We like the cards, yes?

 

5 from 3 votes
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Smoked pork ribs with mustard rub

Ingredients

  • 2 racks pork ribs

Pork rub

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • Yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. The night before or several hours before dinner, mix together the rub spices. 



  2. Spread yellow mustard all over the rack of ribs and apply the rub. Cover and refrigerate. Let it come back to room temp before cooking.

  3. Light the fire and let it die down. Put the meat on the grill off to the side, where it will get indirect heat. Put the cover down and let it cook at least four hours. 

  4. Add salt and pepper, then separate the ribs and enjoy. 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayp
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 




5 from 1 vote
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Deli brunch sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 6 8-oz. tubes crescent rolls
  • 3/4 lb sliced ham
  • 1/2 lb sliced Genoa salami
  • 3 oz Serrano (dry cured) ham
  • 33 slices Swiss cheese
  • any other meats and cheese that seem yummy
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

Unroll 3 of the tubes of crescent rolls without separating the triangles, and fit the dough to cover an 11 x 25-inch pan.

  1. Layer the meat and cheese, making it go all the way to the edges of the pan. This part is subject to any kind of variation you like. 

  2. Unroll the remaining 3 tubes of crescent rolls and spread the dough to cover the meat and cheese. It's okay if you have to stretch and piece it together. 

Beat 2-3 eggs and brush it over the top of the dough, and sprinkle with garlic powder, onions, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.

  1. Cover pan loosely and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until dough is slightly browned and egg is completely cooked. 

5 from 3 votes
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Cashew chicken lettuce wraps

Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 6.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, with salt and pepper
  • 2-3/4 cups cashews

romaine lettuce or other broad-leaf lettuce

  • 1 bunch scallions
  • Sriracha sauce (optional)

2 Tbsp sesame oil for cooking

Sauce

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder or minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  2. Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together. 

  3. Heat the sesame oil in a large pan and add the chicken. Cook until it's done (duh)

  4. Add the sauce to the chicken and cook at a medium heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cashews.

  5. Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves. Add chopped scallions to top, plus sriracha sauce if you like. 

5 from 3 votes
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Buffalo chicken pasta salad

Servings 10

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 36 ounces dry pasta. Radiatore (ruffled spirals) is good, but anything with texture will do.

Dressing

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 10 oz blue cheese dressing (or mayo with blue cheese)
  • 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the chicken.
    Instant Pot instructions: Put chicken in Instant Pot with a cup of water. Set to "high pressure" for seven minutes. Do quick release. Allow chicken to cool, then dice it. 

Cook pasta and drain (duh)

Peel and chop four stalks of celery.

Mix together sauce ingredients.

  1. Put pasta, chicken, and celery in a large bowl. Stir in the dressing and mix to coat. 

Tuna burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 can tuna
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • seasonings, minced onion, etc.
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Drain the tuna.

  2. Mix tuna thoroughly with egg, bread crumbs, and whatever seasonings you like. Form into two patties. 

  3. Heat oil in pan. Fry tuna patties on both sides until golden brown.