What’s for supper? Vol. 307: If you’ll just step this way, sir

My sincere apologies for not getting anything up on the site this week. We started school again this week, and we are all exhaustipated. I knew that would happen, so last weekend, I pulled up a bunch of old back-to-school essays I had written, thinking I could dust them off and re-publish. But the funny ones were so dated, and the earnest ones were so naive, it really didn’t help with my little moroseness problem. I really hate this time of year. Like old Emily says, there is this fucking slant of light. I wish everything would just die and get it over with, rather than dragging us all through this long, drawn-out process where everything explodes into one final flame of exquisite color but it’s clearly the final fever ignited by the face of death. What kind of system is that, sheesh. Maybe I’ll hire a tour bus to come and look at it and buy postcards, that seems nice! I don’t know what is the matter with people. Yes I do.

Anyway, as I say, it was our first week of school, so I wanted to cook foods that everybody likes, because even a good first week of school is challenging, and comfort food helps. Here is what we had:

SATURDAY
Various

Lena actually took me out to eat to Thai Garden in Keene, and the people at home had hot dogs. I didn’t get pics of the delicious appetizers, which included golden triangles, but I did capture my main course, which the waitress recommended. I forget what it was called, but it was some kind of chicken coconut curry with lots of vegetables and two kinds of noodles, some soft, and then some crunchy fried ones on top. Very tasty. 

I wish to compliment the Thai people on their brilliance. So good. We always have a nice time at Thai Garden. Fast, friendly service, tasty, hot food, and decent prices, and if you dither long enough, the waitress will just tell you what to order, and she will be correct. 

SUNDAY
Sandwiches at the beach

Sunday was the last possible day for me to fulfill my annual pledge to take them to the pond and stay as long as they wanted to stay and have dinner there and eat as much candy as they wanted. We packed grapes, watermelon, and blueberries, baguettes, meats, and cheeses, bags of chips, and most importantly, lots and lots of candy.

Hardly anyone else was there. It was a little on the cool side, and it turns out we don’t have quite the beach staying power we once did. We used to play-play-play until after the sun went down, but this year, we only made it about three hours, had an early dinner, and packed it in. But not before Corrie made herself exactly the sandwich she wanted:

And then we said goodbye to the beach for the year. We always say we can keep going a few more times even if vacation is over, but it never works out. 

MONDAY
Pizza

I made four pizzas, one pepperoni, one plain, and then two that I’ve been wanting to try: One Greek, with black olives, fresh garlic, black olives, feta, ricotta, fresh spinach, and tomatoes from the garden

I also bought a jar of marinated red peppers, but I forgot to put them on. It was pretty good!

But the other one was really the star. First I made a little salad with arugula, red onion, fresh lemon juice, good olive oil, and salt and pepper, and set it aside. I cooked the pizza with just sauce and mozzarella, fresh garlic slices, and fresh rosemary from the garden, and some more olive oil and a little extra salt and pepper. Then when it came out, I topped it with lots of torn-up prosciutto and the arugula salad.

I planned to add some freshly-shredded parmesan to the top, but the parmesan mysteriously disappeared. The pizza was full of flavor as it was. Really excellent. I loved the combination of raw and cooked elements, savory, tart, peppery and . . . herbaceous. The arugula did wilt a tiny bit from the heat of the pizza, so it all just melded together beautifully.

Most definitely making this pizza again. Aldi prosciutto and parmesan make it very affordable. 

And now, since Moe moved out and the family continues to dwindle, I’m making my first tentative efforts to face the idea that four pizzas is too many. We used to polish off six extra large pizzas! 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

Nothing special. In fact the sauce was a little skimpy, as you can see. 

No complaints, though. It was too hot for spaghetti and meatballs, but it was the first full day back, and everyone was very happy for this comfort meal. 

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I made five pounds of meatballs and added lots of Worcestershire sauce.

WEDNESDAY
Pork ribs, peas, risotto

Pork ribs: just lots of salt and pepper, roasted up under the broiler until they are juicy. Possibly the tastiest possible meat with the littlest effort.  

The risotto, I goosed so much, I’m almost ashamed. I’m including my recipe below

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but I added 50% more butter, 50% more parmesan cheese (which mysteriously reappeared. My refrigerator has portals or something), and — this is a little gauche, but I made the chicken broth with at least double the amount of bouillon powder. So it was very intensely flavored and very salty, which is how the kids like it. And so do I. It was absolutely gooey

You know what? I make no apology. Don’t run away from your feelings. We’re all doing it!

(Yes, my entire excuse is because I said “gauche.”)

Speaking of things you may not find attractive, here is my pork and risotto, which was not especially photogenic, but it’s on my camera, so here you go. 

If you want kids packing risotto in their lunches and staying up late to microwave a little extra for themselves before bed, this is how to do it. 

THURSDAY
Kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato sheet pan bake; hot pretzels

This is a kind of cute recipe we haven’t had for a while. I used three 12-oz ropes (that’s what they’re called) of kielbasa, a large cabbage, and about four pounds of red potatoes. It’s super easy. You just cut everything up, douse it with olive oil and salt and pepper, put your thick slices of cabbage in there with more oil and salt and pepper, and cook it all. You flip everything at some point, and it takes about half an hour.

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You can see that I got lazy and just flipped the cabbage, and let the potatoes and kielbasa be, so they only really got browned on one side, but it was fine. 

I did chop up some parsley and make the nice garlicky mustard sauce with red wine vinegar. 

We also had a bunch of hot pretzels. 

Once things settle down a bit, I’m going to make homemade hot pretzels again. They turned out pretty nice when I tried them back in February, and they’re not difficult. According the the King Arthur people, you can make the dough in the morning and keep it in the fridge, then form the pretzels and bake them later in the day. Or you can make them completely but slightly underbake them, and then heat them up when it’s dinner time —  probably more realistic for a weekday. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle casserole

The final installment in the “comfort, o my people” meal plan. Our tuna noodle is canned tuna and canned cream of mushroom soup mixed with egg noodles, cooked in a casserole dish with a topping of corn flakes and potato chips, with a dressing made of mayo, ketchup, and vinegar. Damien, who grew up with an entirely different set of monstrous casseroles, is talking about making spaghetti and clams, though. 

And that’s it. Sorry about all the whining. 

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. 

 

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. 

 

One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce

This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs kielbasa
  • 3-4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1-2 medium cabbages
  • (optional) parsley for garnish
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. 

    Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).

    Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan. 

    Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well. 

    Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.  

    Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish. 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 287: In which I mislead my children about the Irish

Rather pretty photos this week! I love being able to eat dinner while the sun is up, but a close second is being able to take food photos while the sun is up. 

Here’s what we cooked this week: 

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Wow, Saturday seems like a long time ago. I think we had various salamis, capicola, prosciutto (Aldi prosciutto. We’re not millionaires) and provolone, with some red pesto. Looks like I was too hungry to take a photo. 

 

SUNDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken and vegetables

Damien made this gorgeous chicken that is absolutely packed with flavor and looks like the true feast it is.

The chicken is stuffed with lemon halves, entire heads of garlic, and sprigs of thyme,

and then you have beautiful heaps of roasted, caramelized carrots, onions, and fennel. Damien also added ten sliced potatoes.

Very moist and scrumptious. I just sat there eating fennel and carrots like a complete vegetable goblin. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, crispy shredded Brussels sprouts

Shredded Brussels sprouts is a new-to-us thing. I preheated the oven to 425, cut the stems off two pounds of Brussels sprouts, and sliced them thinly with the food processor, then spread them in a thin layer on two large parchment paper-covered pans with olive oil, honey, salt, and lots of red pepper flakes, and chopped walnuts.

Then I forgot about them and parts of them burned a little, so I switched pans and stirred them up a bit and cooked them a bit more, and they turned out . . . pretty good.

I was hoping for something a little more crunchy, and this didn’t quite get there, but reminded me a little bit of coleslaw. Probably if I had spread it out more thinly, they would have gotten more crisp. Damien thought it was great as it was, and I did like the flavor a lot. Nice to have something new for a side dish, and I can imagine tons of variations in what you add to the Brussels sprouts. It’s also a great way to stretch a small amount of vegetables. I can imagine adding in carrots. 

TUESDAY
Mexican beef bowls 

Kind of an inelegant photo, but a very tasty meal. 

One kid said, “Wow, I never tried this food before. I just assumed it was gross. But it’s delicious!” What do you know about that. Wait till you find out I was right about everything else, too. 

There wasn’t a ton of meat, so I wanted to make sure there were plenty of other good toppings. Namely, yummy beans. I made them in the instant pot, and I thought they were quite toothsome. 

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I also sautéed up a bunch of sweet pepper and put out sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, scallions, and skillet roasted (skillet roasted? Is that a thing) corn with Taijin seasoning, some corn chips, and a big pot of white rice. I forgot to put out the lime. wedges. The star of this meal is the wonderful gravy from the meat, and the star of the gravy is Worcestershire sauce, which I love even more now that I know it has tamarind in it.

Very rich and piquant meal. 

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WEDNESDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas, onion salad, homemade pita

Last time I made pita bread, I complained about what a huge amount of work it was. I think that was mostly due to the newness of the recipe (I have massive baking anxiety, and every step feels monumental), and the fact that I quadrupled it. I gathered up my courage and tried this recipe again, and it was actually very simple. You just stir up the dough and knead it well, let it rise once,

divide it, roll the pieces into rounds,

and slap them in a hot oven for threeish minutes, and hope they puff.

It takes a long time if you are making 32 of them and can only fit three on a pan, but there are far less pleasant ways to spend a morning than rolling and baking 32 pieces of pita bread. 

I did try pan frying one, and it turned out so flat and rubbery, I went back to the oven method, which was working well enough. While I was complaining about it, I apparently triggered a smart speaker command, so the next three-minute alarm that went off wasn’t just a chime; it was a perky woman’s voice saying “Three minutes the last one fried in the pan turned out really rubbery!” NOBODY ASKED YOU, PERKY KITCHEN ROBOT. 

Anyway, everybody liked the pita. Next time I will bake them right before supper, because they are divine when they are piping hot; but even several hours old, they were still nice. (The same child who was amazed the Mexican beef wasn’t disgusting complimented me on the pita, saying he loved how tough and chewy it was. I did not murder said child, because soon enough he will be eating his own cooking, and then we’ll all see what’s tough.)

The whole meal was so good.

 

The cumin chicken is super easy. You stir up a simple yogurt marinade for the chicken in the morning (I used thighs and drumsticks), and then about an hour before dinner, spread some seasoned chickpeas in a pan, nestle your chicken in it, maybe throw some onions on top, and shove it in the oven. 

The skin on this chicken is so great. The meat turns out really tender, but the best part is the skin, and it takes zero skill. 

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Also, Clara was juicing lemons for some reason, so she had some freshly-squeezed juice to spare for the onion salad, and wow, I forgot what a difference it makes over bottled.

It’s just red onions, lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and some salt and pepper, but it’s so bright and fresh, it’s really wonderful with the earthy flavors of the cumin in the chickpeas and chicken.  

Make a nice bowl of garlicky yogurt sauce,

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and it’s a perfectly balanced plate of flavors. Cool, bright, sharp, earthy, and then the sour-floury pita brings it all together.

Lovely. 

THURSDAY
Irish breakfast

Damien heroically took the three middle girls into Boston on the evening of St. Patrick’s day to see Conan Gray. They ate at one of Guy Fieri’s restaurant because if there’s one thing those kids can do, it’s commit to the bit. 

We at home continued our tradition of acknowledging we don’t really like corned beef, and we had what may or may not be an authentic Irish breakfast instead. The Irish sausage wasn’t too popular last year, so we skipped that and had bacon, thick sourdough toast, roast potatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, roasted tomatoes, and eggs fried in bacon grease. 

This meal gave the kids the impression that the Irish eat very well indeed. Oops.

I had some trouble getting so many different things hot at the same time, so I fudged it a bit, and the mushrooms (mushrooms, parsley, salt, bacon fat) started out well

but got a bit overcooked, and then I decided to broil the tomatoes in the oven

and long before they got any kind of char, they really collapsed. I don’t know if there’s another method of cooking sliced tomatoes so they don’t fall apart, or if that’s just how it be. They were good, just surprisingly fragile, kind of like the Ir–I’m sorry, somebody was shouting and I lost track of what I was saying. 

I’ll let this hero round out the day for us all.  

FRIDAY
Vietnamese garlic noodles

Gonna try this simple recipe from the NYT, which says it’s a San Francisco dish. Butter, lots of garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, spaghetti, parmesan, and scallions. How often does the NYT run a recipe using ingredients you already have! I’ll let you know how it turns out. Garlicky, I’m guessing. 

And we have St. Joseph’s day coming right up tomorrow! Although we’ll probably celebrate on Sunday, just because Saturday is always so crazy-go-nuts. Thinking of an antipasto of pickled vegetables and cheeses and cured meats,

suppli (maybe made by Lucy, since they turned out so well last time),

spaghetti and meatballs (probably made by Damien),

and Clara may make zeppole, which is the traditional St. Joseph’s Day dessert, and which I mangled pretty severely when I tried.

I would like to try pannacotta with fruit (haven’t settled on a recipe yet), just so the kitchen doesn’t forget whose kitchen it is. We just finished The Great British Baking Show and a lot of Giuseppe’s recipes seemed highly desirable to me. But that is a lot of cooks in a small kitchen, so I think today we’ll plan out who makes what when. 

This is also a lot of tasty food for the middle of Lent, but St. Joseph has been mucho helpful for our family and the least we can do for him is eat a lot. Just like the Irish. 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 32 oz full fat yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.