What’s for supper? Vol. 324: O tempora, o meatballs

What a weird week!  Anyone else having a weird week? Just a weird ol’ week. But I just opened the curtains and there was a bluebird sitting on roof of the shed. First one I’ve seen this year. Bluebirds are neat. They’re a little bit boisterous, but very graceful, and they are happy to hang around in gangs at the feeder, without chasing other birds away. Very decorative birds, always a welcome visitor. 

Here’s a slow mo video I took last year:

Anyway, here’s what we had while boistrously hanging around our feeder: 

SATURDAY
Chicago style hot dogs, chips

These were not quite 100% authentic, which would require poppy seed buns, some kind of bright green relish, and sport peppers, but we did have tomatoes, pickled peppers, relish, mustard, pickle spears, chopped onion, and celery salt. 

Really delicious. I got the idea for this from that meme that says the existence of a Chicago style hot dog implies the existence of an MLA style hot dog, which is a silly joke, but on the other hand, mmm, hot dogs. 

SUNDAY
Steak, pork dumplings, cheesecake, strawberry ice cream

Sunday was my favorite husband’s birthday, so we had some of his favorite foods. He cooked steaks for everyone, pan fried in butter with garlic

(sorry, I know it’s Friday, sorry!)

and I used the pork dumpling filling I had stashed in the freezer from New Year’s Eve which is this recipe. I had seen one of those amazing videos where someone’s twinkling fingers forms dumplings into all kinds of beguiling shapes with a few simple pinches and folds, and woop! You have a dahlia and a lotus and a pinwheel. So even though I had dumpling wrappers that were fairly stiff and paper-like, and the video showed dumpling dough that was soft and pliable, I thought, “I CAN DO THAT.” 

Friends, I could not.

But I gave it the old college try, and I did get some raw pork on my phone. And then I went back to using my dumpling press, which works great. So everyone had steamed dumplings while waiting for their steaks. In fact, I had leftover filling after I used up all the wrappers, so I added some panko bread crumbs and made little meatballs

so some people had little birthday meatballs.

I also made a bunch of strawberry ice cream

following the Ben and Jerry recipe, which always turns out light and sweet and lovely 

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and I made a gigantic cheesecake. I have been sworn to secrecy about the particulars of this recipe, but LOOK AT MY CHEESECAKE

I think this is the first time I’ve achieved no cracks. I put all the ingredients out to come to room temperature the night before; I mixed it very lightly, so as to introduce as little air as possible, and scraped down the bowl often; and I baked it in a water bath, and then turned off the oven and let it sit in the cooling oven for a few hours before I took it out and started to chill it. 

It was luscious.

I wish I had started 24 hours sooner, so I could have chilled it over night after baking it, but it was rich and smooth and lovely, and about a mile high. 

MONDAY
One-pan garlic chicken thighs and roast veg

I used to make these one-pan chicken thigh meals a lot, and got kind of burnt out on them, so I backed off for a while. I guess it’s been long enough, because this was very popular.

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You can add whatever vegetables you want. My advice is to think about how long they need to cook, and try to cut them to the appropriate thickness, so they end up done at the same time. 

I used about three pounds of potatoes with the skin on and few zucchinis and half a large butternut squash in wedges. In this variation, you season the vegetables, then lay the chicken on top and brush them (well, really smear them, as it’s pretty thick) with a garlicky brown sugar sauce, and then just chunk it in the oven. 

Quite tasty. The sugar runs down into the pan and caramelizes the bottom of the potatoes, giving them a nice little crunch, and the chicken is juicy and the vegetables are tender. 

TUESDAY
Meatball subs, fries

I wish I could remember what I did to these meatballs, because they were much better than my usual meatballs. Humph. I have become aware that I tend to underseason things, so possibly I just took a heavier hand with everything I sprinkled. 

I briefly considered pan frying them, but then I remembered the shortness of life and just threw them on a broiler pan and baked them in a hot oven like I usually do, then transferred them to a crock pot with plenty of jarred sauce.

Good enough for the likes of us. O tempora, o meatballs. 

WEDNESDAY
Chili verde, chips and pico de gallo, cornbread, pineapple, vanilla and peach-mango ice cream

On Wednesday, our friend Fr. Matt from Louisiana came for supper! My chili verde recipe

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is reasonably spicy, and calls for specific peppers. Well, the supermarket didn’t have those specific peppers. It just had bags of mixed peppers called “hot pepper combo” or something, and the label was one of those “may contain one or more of the following.” This is what I got:

I liked the looks of that, so I roasted them. I also tweaked my recipe a bit and roasted the onions and garlic along with them, rather than putting them onions and garlic into the food processor raw

then I puréed it all up with some cilantro, browned up a good amount of fatty, salted and peppered pork chunks in oil, and —

here is the point where I was already several hours behind schedule, because the school called to say that Benny had bruised her eyeball, and what should they do??? I had no idea, so I spent the new few hours calling various doctors and trying to get an appointment with the right person, and sending a kid to the store with a list of stuff I forgot to buy, and making other kids clean up the hideous house because we are really still in shock from Christmas and the house was looking PRETTY ROUGH, and by the time I got back to my chili, it was laaate. So I threw it in the Instant Pot, because it could tenderize the meat faster.

Unless, of course, the Instant Pot float valve is mysteriously missing. Which it was. So I put everything back in the regular non-instant pot, hoped it would cook fast enough, whizzed through making some corn bread (I just used the recipe on the package, which is fine)

and some pico de gallo

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and rescued the kitchen from complete squalor, and then one kid went to pick up some of the kids, and I called the school to tell them to tell Benny to wait for me to pick her up, and we went to the eye doctor and her eye is fine, thank God, just a little creepy; and when I got home, the chili was, if I may say so, perfect. The pork shredded readily with a wooden spoon

and when Fr. Matt got here, we had a lovely meal. 

I made two kinds of ice cream: Plain vanilla, which is just two eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 cups milk, one cup heavy cream, and a dash of vanilla; and then I wanted to make mango, which I made for our anniversary baked alaska, but I couldn’t find mango pulp anywhere. (Here’s the recipe anyway, in case you can.)

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In theory, you can use your big brain and make mango pulp by pureeing mango, but I was being smart (even bigger brain time), and I knew that was a bridge too far. Just altogether too much work, and I definitely didn’t have time for that. So instead (tiny brain time) I went to the other store and bought some canned peaches, and pureed those, and also bought some fresh mangos and cut them up and macerated them in sugar with (possible big brain?) a little ground cloves. 

The ice cream was . . . fine. I think peach and mango would have been fine, and peach and mango and cloves might possibly have worked, but peach, mango, cloves, and onion . . . now that really is a bridge too far. Yep, everyone was too polite to mention it, but I had cut the mangos up on the wooden cutting board and they had picked up an undeniable onion flavor (very tiny brain). Oh well! That’s why I made vanilla (big brain, with vanilla ice cream on top).

THURSDAY
Old Bay drumsticks, risotto, leftover cornbread

On Thursday I collapsed like a bunch of broccoli. I did something I almost never do: I got the kids to school (which took two trips, because one kid promised twice that she was awake, but then when it was time to go, she was just stumbling out of bed, so I had to come back for her) and then just went back to bed and conked out for another three hours. And then when I did get up, I was so dang dopey. Really the only thing I accomplished all day was to make risotto. 

BUT WHAT RISOTTO. I was planning a butternut squash instant pot risotto, because I still had half the squash in the fridge left over from the chicken thigh meal; but oops, the instant pot pin was still missing. So I was tragically forced to spend a good amount of time slowly stirring ladles of chicken broth into the creamy rice and dreamily stirring it around, smelling the fragrant, buttery clouds of steam, and occasionally tasting it to make sure it was still, uh, I don’t know, I was just eating it. 

Toward the end I threw in a giant mound of freshly-grated parmesan cheese and a big fistful of chopped parsley. You know what, no one complained that it didn’t have butternut squash in it. 

The drumsticks were fine. I just roasted them in melted butter with plenty of Old Bay seasoning, and I set out the leftover corn bread. 

We had to run off and get to an art show that the two high school girls had pieces in. Arty kids! We met the art teacher and warned her about the kid who’s coming next year. The general principle is that, if you’ve met one Fisher kid, you’ve met one Fisher kid, but this is especially true with Irene. 

FRIDAY
Seafood lo mein 

And finally Friday. Man.

I haven’t made lo mein for a while. It’s easy, and Damien and Lena and I and maybe one other person really like it, but no one else does. 

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When I made the chili verde, I got some cup o’ noodle for the kids who wouldn’t want it, so I expect they’ll be returning to that well for this meal. I don’t insist that people eat what I make. They’re welcome to fix themselves something else, as long as they’re not rude about it and don’t make a huge mess. I aim to make foods that most of the family will enjoy for about five days a week, and then one or two meals can be things that people with more cultivated palates will enjoy. I have found that this no-pressure constant exposure to different foods is as good a way as any to introduce kids to a variety of foods, and pretty often, they start venturing into new territory of their own volition, just out of curiosity. But if they don’t (and some kids don’t), that’s okay, too. Because it’s just food. There are plenty of other things to fight about! I do care about food, a lot, but I care more about not making anyone miserable over food. 

Guys, I’m trying so hard to bring this back around to bluebirds, but it’s just not working, so I’ll just say goodbye. 

 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 1/3+ cup honey
  • 1/3+ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

 

Mango ice cream

Ingredients

  • 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 mango, chopped into bits

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.

  2. Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.

  3. Cover and refrigerate two hours.

  4. Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)

  5. After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

Pico De Gallo

quick and easy fresh dip or topping for tacos, etc.

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced OR 1/2 serrano pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • dash kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite Mexican food

 

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. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 320: Cat, dog, hen, only each of us is all three of them

Happy Friday! Because it was somehow actually cheaper than continuing to have my old phone, I got a new phone with a fancy new camera, I haven’t had much chance to play around with it yet. That’s not true; I’ve had lots of time. I’m just stupid and easily intimidated by technology. What I’m trying to tell you is some of the food photos turned out a little weird and overly dramatic this week. You’ve been warned!

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Little brown meal

That is what my parents used to call it when they were super poor in the kibbutz in Israel and all they could afford was, I think, hard boiled eggs and eggplant? That doesn’t make sense, though, because those things aren’t brown. Anyway, my father refused to eat either of those foods for the rest of his life, so they must have had them a lot. “Little brown meal” for us is when you’re all about delivering nutrients and that’s really your only goal. 

On Saturday, that meant pizza rolls, two kinds of taquitos, and smile fries or whatever you call these misbegotten things formed from mashed potatoes in the very bowls of hell. (Don’t get me wrong; they’re delicious. But they’re not exactly food.) 

When I say the kids liked this meal, you can believe I am telling the truth. I truly shudder to think how often I would have to serve it before they would refuse to ever eat it again. 

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

We just had these a few weeks ago, but the kids suggested it and I didn’t have any other bright ideas, and boneless skinless chicken breast was $1.49 a pound. If you missed it last time, this sandwich is sourdough bread or ciabatta rolls, roast chicken breast, bacon, slices of Granny smith apples, slices of sharp cheddar cheese, and honey mustard. 

And now for the world’s most dramatic Vermonter Sandwich photo:

Eh? Eh? It looks like it’s about to knock the casting director’s socks off with “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going.” 

MONDAY
Chicken quesadillas, guacamole and chips

These were fine. Boneless skinless chicken thighs were also $1.49 a pound, and normally I would do something tasty and middle eastern with them — in fact I have a number of tabs open, begging me to do just that, but [impulsively cuts Monday’s throat with my demon barber razor] I HAVEN’T THE TIME. So I roasted up the chicken with some oil and Taijin, sliced it up, and made a bunch of quesadillas and then burned most of them, oh well. 

The guacamole turned out pretty well, though. 

Jump to Recipe

I have gotten out of the habit of keeping limes in the house, though, because I cut out my evening cocktail, so I had to use bottled lime juice. I also tried one of those rocking garlic press things that everyone keeps telling me will change my life, and I can say definitively: Meh. (That is an affiliate link even though I’m not actually recommending it, because what if you don’t listen to me and I earn a commission anyway?) It left behind some sort of garlic sheets — like the outermost layer of the clove — that I couldn’t get it to crush no matter what, so I really didn’t end up saving myself time or effort in the end. Is there a trick to this? I just went back to my trusty old squasher press, which is slow, but it does work. 

TUESDAY
Italian wedding soup, garlic knots

Tuesday was supposed to be taco day, but it just felt soupy. Italian wedding soupy!

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I had a large pitcher of turkey bone broth in the freezer from the Thanksgiving carcass, so I defrosted that (and it looked quite photogenic in the process, let me tell you. Check out that ring of schmaltz)

and I made a bunch of little baby meatballs with ground pork, lots of freshly-grated parmesan, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, even freshly ground salt and pepper, and of course some eggs and breadcrumbs; and I fried them in batches in a little olive oil.

I blooped the fried meatballs into the broth, added a bunch of torn-up kale, and let it simmer all day; then about half an hour before dinner, I added some ancini de pepe and cooked it until it was soft.

Little more pepper and that was it. A little parsley and parmesan on the top. 

Darn it, I underseasoned the meatballs. It really could have been a wonderful soup, but it was merely okay. The broth from the turkey was very nice, and the kale made the broth a lot greener than I was expecting. It doesn’t aways do that, so I don’t know what that was about. I mean like the color really got into the liquid. I dunno. 

I also made garlic knots using premade pizza dough. Usually I made the knots and top each one with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of garlic powder and salt, and then just bake them at 450 for (I have no idea, I don’t know how long anything bakes, sorry) but this time I baked them bare. Then I melted a stick of butter and mixed it with garlic powder and salt and poured that over the hot, baked knots and tossed them up, and holy cow, that was excellent. 

I believe it was Staša — you know Staša –who suggested this method.

I had baked the garlic knots a greased pan sprinkled with fine corn meal, and some of the corn meal got mixed up with the butter and added a little texture to the whole thing. Gonna do it this way every time. Some fresh parsley would not have been amiss, either. 

WEDNESDAY
Tacos and corn chips

Just boring, nothing to report. 

THURSDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil and provolone; homemade ice cream

Benny’s birthday! She asked for one of Damien’s specialties, the delicious Deadspin recipe for  breaded fried chicken cutlets smothered in provolone with a secret fresh basil leaf, topped with a scoop of wonderful homemade red sauce. 

I didn’t take a photo, but here is a previous one:

Full confession, I gobbled up my chicken and then went back and just got a bowl of sauce for seconds. I love that sauce so much. 

She’s going to have her party this weekend, which is going to be ancient Egypt-themed with a sphinx cake, so she asked for just ice cream on her actual birthday. She wanted M&M and then, knowing I can’t have chocolate, requested a batch of strawberry so I could have some. (I have kind of mixed feelings about how thoughtful it is to request that I go out and buy strawberries, process and macerate them, and make ice cream, because she wants me to be able to eat ice cream; but on the other hand, I ate it, and it was delicious).

I used the Ben and Jerry recipe for both batches.

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(For the M&M ice cream, I just made the sweet cream base, as described in the recipe, and didn’t do the strawberry part, but instead stirred in some M&M’s after the ice cream was done churning, before putting it in the freezer to solidify. I froze the M&M’s for a while before stirring them in, to keep them from blurring when I stirred them in.) 

Easy peasy, but I managed to splatter cream all over the whole kitchen somehow. I was thinking about how annoyed I would have been if someone else had made it and then claimed not to know how it happened, but honest to goodness, I have no idea. I did clean it up, though! I live my life as all the characters in the Little Red Hen, simultaneously. 

Yes, this is a Brideshead reference and a Shakespeare reference and a Little Red Hen reference all in one, FOR NO REASON. So far no one has discovered a use for my brain. I have been on Lexapro for over a month and it still does shit like this.

FRIDAY

Uh I forgot to plan or buy anything. May possibly have been hoping the world would come to an end before supper. I don’t know, what are you having? Maybe we will have leftover ice cream. Maybe we will have eggplant and hard boiled eggs. Maybe the world will come to an end. 

If not, here’s my little reminder that I have that monster list of recommended gifts! I’m about 18% done with shopping, myself, if that makes you feel any better. 

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. 

Italian Wedding Soup with pork meatballs

Lots of variations to this pleasant, nourishing soup with little meatballs.

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 4-5 lbs ground pork (can mix in some ground beef or turkey)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups freshly-shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup butter for frying

For the soup:

  • 3 lg carrots, diced
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 3-4 cups raw kale, torn into pieces
  • 2 cups uncooked small pasta like ditalini
  • pepper
  • more parmesan and Italian parsley for garnish

Instructions

To make the meatballs:

  1. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients (except the butter) with your hands. Form them into small meatballs. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter and lightly brown the meatballs in batches. They do not need to be cooked all the way through, as they will continue cooking in the soup.

To make the soup:

  1. Remove the meatballs from the pot. Put the onions and carrots into the butter and cook until they're slightly soft. Add in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant but not too browned.

  2. Add the meatballs back in. Add the broth and white wine, the kale, and the pepper to taste. Simmer for several hours.

  3. About half an hour before serving, add the uncooked pasta and turn up the heat to cook.

  4. Serve with shredded or grated parmesan and coarsely chopped Italian parsley for a garnish.

 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

Twenty-five years calls for baked Alaska!

On Tuesday, Damien and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

We did it in the way we know best: With a lot of food. Damien made a spectacular meal of Korean fried chicken, roast broccoli, and rice (more about that tomorrow!), and I was in charge of dessert. 

Twenty five years ago, I baked our wedding cake at the last minute, because my mother got sick, or accidentally cut off her own hand, or otherwise made sure she didn’t have to make the wedding cake. Which, understandable. I don’t remember what recipe I used; I just remember just baking more and more and more cake until it finally seemed wedding-sized, and I was very tired, so I stopped. And that’s how you do it!

We didn’t have a little bride and groom or even a floral topper. This is because I forgot. It was just cake. At the reception, my friend Kate noticed it was just bare white, and gathered up loose flowers and ferns from the bridesmaid’s bouquets and strewed them over the cake, and last I heard, this does not invalidate a marriage.

Nevertheless, someone told us it was traditional to save the top layer of cake and eat it on your first anniversary, so someone wrapped it up and we dutifully put it into the freezer. 

And then we moved, and moved the cake to the freezer of the new house. And then we were pretty busy, so we forgot about it, and then we moved again, and then we moved several times, and had ten kids and probably half a dozen refrigerators, and after a certain point, I got a little weird about the cake and wouldn’t let people throw it away even though it was taking up valuable space and there was no possible way it was edible. 

Anyway, maybe I had the sort of semi-disastrous wedding cake in my head as I hatched the idea to make a baked Alaska for our 25th anniversary. And let me apologize for the lack of photos in the first part of this. It does get less wordy and more pretty as it goes!

This was my first attempt at making baked Alaska, which is a cake topped with ice cream surrounded with meringue which is then toasted and/or set on fire. You can toast it with a torch, as I did, or you can bake it in the oven, and you can eat it that way, or you can toast it and then douse it with 80-proof liquor and flambé it. Either way, the novelty is that the ice cream stays frozen while the outside is briefly very hot indeed.

No part of it was difficult, but it did take some planning, because I wanted to make the ice cream and other components from scratch, and you have to freeze the ice cream bowls for 12 hours before making ice cream, and I was making three kinds. You can make it with store-bought ice cream, though, and you don’t need any special equipment to make the baked Alaska. You can use a kitchen torch, but you don’t have to. I will include a condensed version of the recipe at the end. 

As I mentioned, the meal was Korean or Korean-adjascent. With that in mind, this is what I ended up with for dessert, from the bottom up: 

Pound cake (which I made from a mix, because my baking is unreliable)
Raspberry-blackberry jam and pecan pralines
Mango ice cream
Pecan pralines
Coconut ice cream
Raspberry-blackberry jam
Strawberry ice cream
Meringue, toasted with a torch and then flambéd with spiced rum

Here’s the timeline, with recipes for each component

SATURDAY
I made a double recipe of Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry ice cream. Damien loves strawberry ice cream, and he said this is the best he ever had. 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

It comes out a lovely petal pink and is full of strawberries. What more could you want?

SUNDAY

On Sunday I made coconut ice cream. I used the Ben and Jerry’s recipe for this as well, and it was very easy: Just a sweet cream base with a can of coconut cream stirred in. Here’s that recipe:

Ben and Jerry's coconut ice cream

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 15 oz coconut cream

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and coconut cream (discarding the waxy disk thing) and continue whisking to blend.

  4. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

This ice cream would be an excellent base for all kinds of lovely add-ins, nuts and chocolate chips and things. It was very rich and pleasant just plain, though. 

MONDAY

Monday I made mango ice cream, cake, and pralines. 

First the mango ice cream. I fiddled with various recipes, and here is what I ended up with:

Mango ice cream

Ingredients

  • 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 mango, chopped into bits

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.

  2. Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.

  3. Cover and refrigerate two hours.

  4. Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)

  5. After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.

My goodness, this was fantastic. If you like mangos, this is your ice cream. Lovely golden color, too. 

While it was churning, I made two boxes of Betty Crocker pound cake mix. I made two nine-inch rounds, plus an extra heart-shaped pan. I knew I was going to have to cut up the cake and reassemble it into a larger circle, so I wanted to have lots of curved pieces to choose from. 

I also made a batch of pecan pralines.

My computer has weirdly evaporated any trace of this recipe, so I’ll have to come back later and fill it in when I find it. It was just a basic recipe with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and egg white, as I recall, and a low oven with the timer going off every fifteen minutes to stir the dang things. They came out nicely light and crunchy, very hard to stop snacking on them. 

TUESDAY

Tuesday was our actual anniversary. The first thing I did was clear out a space in the freezer, so there would be plenty of room to freeze the dang thing. Then I decided at the last minute to make some fresh jam to go in between the baked Alaska layers. This was a good idea, but I wish I had made more, because it was a little dry in between the cake and the first ice cream layers, but I only had a few cups of berries (half blackberry, half raspberry). 

It’s super easy. You combine three parts very ripe berries to one part sugar, and a li’l spoon of fresh lemon juice, bring it to a gentle boil in a pot, turn it down to simmer, and keep it simmering, stirring it frequently, until it thickens up. The recipes say it takes twenty minutes, but nothing takes twenty minutes. It took probably forty minutes to turn into anything I could honestly call “jam.” But it was a chilly, drizzly day and I did not mind hanging around sniffing the gentle clouds of berry steam. 

And then I was ready! Ready to make a baked Alaska! I had watched a few videos and read a few recipes, and chose out the most reasonable-sounding instructions. Here is what I did. 

My goal was to have the whole thing assembled at least four hours before dessert time, so it would have plenty of time to freeze. I took the three tubs of ice cream out of the freezer to let them soften up.

Note: The coconut ice cream softens up faster than the others, and eventually separates, so if you’re using it, maybe leave it in the freezer longer. 

I was planning an enormous baked Alaska. It probably could have served 15 people. I sprayed a plastic salad bowl 12″ in diameter with neutral cooking spray. Then I lined it with two ribbons in a cross shape, to make a handle to lift the frozen ice cream out at the end.

Then I lined the whole thing with plastic wrap, leaving some hanging over the edges. 

I really did not want that ice cream to get stuck!

I also made a diagram of what I wanted my finished baked Alaska to look like, because I knew I was going to get confused. Remember, you’re making it upside down, so the first thing you put in is going to be on top of the finished product.

I mushed up the strawberry ice cream a bit to make it the consistency of soft serve, and spread it in the bowl, making a smooth surface with a spatula.

Then I put it back in the freezer for 25 minutes or so. The jam was still pretty hot from being cooked, so I popped that in the freezer, too. When the ice cream had solidified a bit, I spooned some of the jam over the top and spread it out. Then I took the coconut ice cream, mushed it, and spread it out, and sprinkled pralines over the top, and put it in the freezer to harden a bit. Then I repeated the process with the mango ice cream, making the third layer. I spread the rest of the jam and the rest of the pralines over this. 

(I wanted this baked Alaska to be in layers, but you can also make it with random scoops or blobs of different kinds of ice cream, and this is easier and faster, because you don’t have to let it freeze in between, and you don’t have to try to smooth it down. But you don’t get stripes, and where’s the fun in that?)

Then I folded the flaps of plastic wrap over the ice cream to compress it all and make it as smooth as possible. 

Then it was time to cut up the pound cakes! I had two nine-inch rounds and a heart-shaped caked. First I leveled them, then I cut one of the rounds in half and laid them along both edges of the bowl. I cut a long rod out the center of the second round and used it to fill up the center. Then I cut rounded wedges from the heart to fill in the remaining gaps. I was pretty proud of how well it all fit together. 

You can see that I put the crust edge down, touching the ice cream, and the trimmed edge up. I wish I had done it the other way, so the more tender cake would be in contact with the jam and ice cream. Next time!

Many people use brownies for the base. Any baked good is fine, as long as it’s dense and can hold up to the weight of a lot of ice cream. When all the gaps were filled in, I folded the extra plastic wrap flaps over the cake again, and added a little extra, to keep it dry in the freezer, and that part was all done. I got it in the freezer by noon. 

I also did some prep for the meringue early in the day. I separated eight eggs gave the yolks to the dog, and set the whites aside so they would be room temperature when it was time to make the meringue. Then I made some superfine sugar: I put two cups of regular granulated sugar into the food processor and whirred it for a couple of minutes, and then set that aside as well. 

The meringue turned out to be the only part that gave me trouble. After dinner, I started whipping the egg whites in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment along with 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar. I whisked it until it was frothy, and then started adding the superfine sugar, one little scoop at a time, with the whisk going on high. And it went and it went and it went and it went, but it the peaks just never got stiff. Every time I tested it to see if they would stand up straight, they would flop over. I know it takes a long time with a lot of eggs, but it really got to be ridiculous after a while, and I was afraid I was going to break the eggs, so I decided to just go ahead and work with what I had. 

With great trepidation, I put a pan under the ice cream bowl, flipped it over, gave it a tap, and . . . it came right out, no problem whatsoever. I didn’t need the handle or anything. The plastic wrap peeled off easily. Here’s how it looked at this point:

At this point, you don’t have a lot of time. You have to spread the meringue all over the whole thing, including down to the bottom of the cake base, before the ice cream melts. The meringue insulates the ice cream and keeps it from getting melted by whatever kind of heat you apply. I frantically meringued it with a spatula and then added scallops (I mean designs, not the shellfish) with a fork, then I toasted the whole thing with a kitchen torch. That was fun! It brought out the design like magic, like those books you get when you’re little, that you brush with water and a hidden picture appears. 

Next step: Flambé! I had bought a nip of Kraken spiced rum and just sort of splattered it all over the baked Alaska, and then turned the torch on it, and up it went.

It just made a small flame, so I threw some more rum on and torched it again, and that was a little more impressive.

 

 

There is supposed to be a video above! Please tell me there is a video above. 

Some of the instructions I read said you were supposed to
warm the rum, which I forgot to do, and some said you were supposed to pour it into an eggshell (?) and set it on fire and then pour it onto the baked Alaska, which sounded like a wonderful way to set your arm on fire. My method worked fine, and it burned itself out fairly quickly, without blackening the dessert too much. 

And then it was time to cut! I thought it would be an absolute menace to hack through, but it was actually quite easy, and the knife slid right through. The ice cream held together in distinct layers, yet the cake wasn’t hard and frozen. I was so pleased.

The meringue even held in place and didn’t really start to slide until I was almost done cutting slices for everyone. All in all, a complete success, way beyond what I was hoping for. 

You guys, it tasted so good. I guess I was halfway expecting it to be some kind of novelty monstrosity dessert that would impress the kids because it was on fire, but instead it turned out to be truly delicious. 

I was entirely happy with the combination of creamy, tropical fruity flavors, and the jam and nuts added a lot of interest so it wasn’t just sugar and sweetness.

I do wish I had made more jam, but the jam itself was a great idea. Cold jam made from fresh fruit is an absolute delight. The meringue itself had more depth of flavor than I was expecting. The light torching had caramelized it slightly, and it had a wonderful cozy, toasty taste that added a real layer of appeal. 

I will absolutely be making this again. Absolutely! Not for a while, though! 

Ah, but what about the top tier of the wedding cake, the one we saved for a quarter of a century, brought with us through several moves and held onto throughout countless power outages? WHAT OF IT? 
 
Well, I happen to have this video of Damien finally unwrapping it, and I think you’re just perverse enough to be curious. Enjoy! Enjoy! 
 

Well. Anyway, you can make a baked Alaska in a day. You can see I did this the slightly insane way, but you can get a readymade cake, get a quart or two of ice cream from the store, and make a meringue, and set it on fire! Do it! 

Here are the assembly instructions for baked Alaska, without all the recipes and chit-chat. This is for a somewhat smaller one than the one I made, but you can fiddle with the proportions.

Spray or grease a bowl.
Lay a cross of ribbons inside it to make a handle, to help you lift out the frozen ice cream dome. 
Line this with plastic wrap, leaving some hanging over the edges. 
Add small scoops of various flavors of softened ice cream. Or add softened ice cream in layers, smoothing it down and letting it freeze in between. 
Continue filling the bowl, and leave a space on top. Fold the plastic wrap over the top and smush it down, to compress it and make the top smooth. 

Get a pound cake, slab of brownies, or other dense cake, and cut it into slices about half an inch thick. Fit these over the top of the ice cream like a puzzle, filling up all the gaps. 
Fold the plastic wrap over the top of the cake and freeze the bowl for at least four hours until the ice cream is rock hard. 

Make the meringue: Make a cup of superfine sugar by whirring it in the food processor for a minute. 
Separate four egg whites and add in 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. Whisk with an electric mixer until frothy.
Spoonful by spoonful, add in one cup of superfine sugar until the meringue  is smooth, not grainy, and the peaks are stiff. (Test by pulling out the whisk and turning it upside down. If the meringue stands up straight and does not flop over, they are stiff.)Take the ice cream bowl out of the freezer and flip it upside down on a flat pan. If it doesn’t pop out, use the ribbon handles to pull it out. Peel off the plastic wrap.
Spread the meringue all over the ice cream and cake, all the way down to the bottom, and make it into decorative swirls, using a fork to add details if you like. 

Lightly torch the meringue to toast it.
(If you don’t have a torch, you can toast it in the oven, but you will need to re-freeze the whole thing for a few hours first, before popping it into a 500 oven for 4 minutes.)
 
To flambé the meringue, pour a few tablespoons of 80-proof liquor like rum or brandy over the top of the meringue and touch a flame to it. It will burn itself out in a minute or so. 
 
Cut with a sharp knife. If it’s too hard to cut, dip the knife in hot water.