What’s for supper? Vol. 285: Best I can do is no lobster

Every year, I tell the kids how strict the orthodox are in Lent, compared to us. No meat, no fish, no dairy, no cheese, no eggs, no oil on Fridays and most but not all Wednesdays, no brown or yellow or oblong grains, no oily fishies, and very few whiskered or blue-eyed mammals on the final week, which is known as Full On Horrendoustide. You can eat wax. I researched this rigorously and I don’t want to hear about it. The upshot is we westerners have it very easy, with our little meatless Fridays, and I also don’t want to hear about that. So every year I give my little speech, and then I go ahead and cook like I always do throughout Lent, except I feel bad about it. I try to avoid lobster, even if it’s on sale, which it is not. 

So here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
I don’t know. Oh, Saturday was Corrie’s birthday, so we had calzones. I feel like I already wrote about this. I’m confused. Here is a picture on my phone that says “Saturday” on it:

My little cupcake. Now she is seven. 

SUNDAY
Beef stroganoff on skinny egg noodles

But her birthday was a different day from her party. Was the party Sunday, then? I’m so confused! I think the party was Saturday, but I did the food post on Monday, so I included Saturday’s food? Anyway, Damien cooked on Sunday. He used a Deadspin recipe for stroganoff and it came out fragrant and luxuriously creamy with very tender strips of beef.

But he forgot-a the mushrooms! These things happen. Still delicious. There was some kind of run on regular noodles and there were none to be found, so we had fancy skinny noodles. Don’t tell the ecumenical patriarch. (Actually it wasn’t even Lent yet by this point.)

MONDAY
Tacos al pastor with pico de gallo

I’ve tried a few different recipes for tacos al pastor, and I like this one the best. It takes a bit of work on the front end (you have to blister up the guajillo chilis, then de-seed them, then simmer them

before adding them to the marinade, which itself has quite a few ingredients, especially if you have to make a substitute for achiote paste, which I did).

I complain, but I will admit, I adore spending a morning making a marinade. If I have nothing else to do and there aren’t a lot of people climbing over me making mountains of toast and complaining about the kind of popcorn I got, it’s so pleasant, simply messing around in the kitchen.

I also made a big bowl of pico de gallo, although I forgot to buy any peppers, so it was just tomatoes, onions, lime juice, kosher salt, and cilantro. Actual recipe:

Jump to Recipe

Here’s how pico de gallo should look, if you’re not lazy:

I, however, got lazy and did it in the food processor, so it was a little pulpier than necessary, but still sharp and tasty. 

We got a big dump of snow, so we’re still cooking exclusively indoors. When it was time to cook, I got a big skillet nice and hot with oil and cooked the marinated meat in batches, to make sure it got a little bit seared, rather than basically simmering due to being squished.

The pineapple juice in the marinade made it so tender.

While I was cooking the meat, I broiled the chunks of pineapple on an oiled pan right up under the broiler, and heated up a stack of tortillas. My land, it was all so tasty. I can never get over what wonderful things happen to pineapple with a little high heat, the hot nectary insides right under the delicate trim of char. Amazing.

The marinade is not too spicy, just kind of smoky and warming. It was a popular dish altogether, and so pretty. 

Tacos al pastor is one of my favorite Mexican dishes (and it apparently has a Lebanese shawarma influence, so that’s no surprise).

I wanted some lime cilantro rice to go with it, but we were low on rice. It was really a fully satisfying meal on its own, though, with some sour cream and cilantro thrown on top of the meat and pineapple and pico de gallo.

Your choice of corn chips or lime plantain chips on the side. Good stuff.

TUESDAY
Actual Restaurant

Fat Tuesday! We’re terrible at Mardi Gras. Nobody around here is doing anything remotely debauched, and nobody in this house would be excited about pancakes, so we went out to eat. Appetizers and everything! Corrie only went under the table one time. I got a bunch of photos of the teenagers looking away with an annoyed expression, so I’ll spare you those. 

I decided to go ahead and have a steak, which turned out to be so huge, I could only eat half (I had the second half for lunch on Thursday). And a very fat Tuesday was had by all. 

WEDNESDAY
Marcella Hazan’s red sauce on spaghetti

It was suggested to the cook that, because it was Ash Wednesday, we could just go ahead and open a jar of Aldi spaghetti sauce, but it was counter- suggested that just because it’s a penitential day doesn’t mean we have to eat dirt. So in the interest of family harmony, we had Marcella Hazan’s miraculous three-ingredient sauce, and it was, of course, wonderfully savory and delicious.

Jump to Recipe

I would say the penance came in when I could only have one helping, but actually I went back for another little scoop because nobody stopped me.

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, Pringles

Nothing to report. Fell asleep sitting up on the couch, and then Corrie came down after bedtime, sobbing because there are three kinds of matter and they all take up space, but what about the ones that donnnnnn’t? People think they want smart kids, but this is a mistake. 

FRIDAY
Fish burgers, french fries, broccoli slaw

I just got some frozen breaded fish and and some fresh dill, and I guess we’ll have fish burgers with some kind of homemade tartar sauce, assuming I can stay awake. I don’t seem to have a broccoli slaw recipe saved, but I like it with all kinds of stupid things in it, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries and all kinds of bird food that nobody else wants. I’m sure they’ll all be gracious about it, and so will I, I’m sure. And a blessed Horrendoustide to you. 

 

 

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

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

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

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

SATURDAY
Tacos al pastor, plantain chips

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY
Stuffed shells, fried mozzarella sticks

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

Jump to Recipe

They turned out perfect!

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

Jump to Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
English muffin pizzas

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

TUESDAY
Roast beef sandwiches

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

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

Am I doing Lent right? 

WEDNESDAY
Aldi pizza

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

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

Drop, drop, slow tears. 

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY
I think seared scallops in cream sauce over fettuccine. 

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

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

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

Stuffed shells

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

 

Fried mozzarella sticks

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 168: For the love of Miguel

What’s For Supper is back! I took a few weeks off — first because two Fridays ago was Good Friday, and then the next Friday was Exhausted Friday. But here we are again, and I have some lovely meals to tell you about. 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

It was a long time ago, but I feel like I remember Damien made these on the grill in the rain. I like him. 

SUNDAY
Chicken rice bowls, strawberry short cake

I didn’t have a clear plan for this meal, but it turned out well enough. Needs some tweaks, but we’ll definitely have it again in some form.  

I cooked some chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on high pressure for eight minutes with about a cup of Goya Mojo Criollo marinade, and then I shredded it and returned it to the marinade to stay warm. Then I made a big pot of white rice. I set out the rice, the shredded chicken, shredded cheese, chopped scallions, black beans, lime wedges, tomatoes with diced chiles, sour cream, hot sauce, and chili lime powder, and I heated up a can of green enchilada sauce. Everyone made whatever combination they wanted. 

I wanted everything.

I deliberately kept things bland so more kids would eat it, though. Damien and I agreed that it needed something crunchy, like corn chips, and maybe the rice and/or beans could have been seasoned. But overall, a quick and easy meal.

For dessert, we got some of those sponge cake shells (I prefer actual shortcake, which is just basically a sweet biscuit, but no one else does) and piled on sugared, lightly mashed strawberries and whipped cream. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, terrible potato salad

Despite years of evidence, I still firmly believe I can whip up some delicious potato salad without really thinking about it. Some of the kids thought it was great, but it was not. It was weird and bad.

I diced some potatoes and boiled them, then mixed them up with mayo, vinegar, hard boiled eggs, leftover scallions, dried dill, pickle relish, and paprika. These are all potato salad ingredients, but it is two or three recipes merged together in an unholy union which shall be potatonathema. I should have skipped the pickle relish, or the dill, or all that paprika. I should have skipped town.

TUESDAY
Salami caprese sandwiches, string beans, cheesy bread sticks

Always a hit, and so simple. Ciabatta rolls, genoa salami, fresh tomato, fresh basil, sliced mozzarella (or provolone works, too), olive oil, vinegar, and freshly-ground pepper and sea salt. Yes, it has to be freshly-ground pepper and sea salt or else you have to pinch yourself viciously the whole time you’re chewing. I don’t make the rules! 

We also had some cheesy bread sticks I got at Aldi. There was some dolor and confusion as, according to some, I allegedly announced we were having cheese sticks as a side, leading people to believe I meant cheese sticks; and then some people asked other people if they could eat their cheese sticks, and the other people said they could, because they thought they meant cheese sticks, not cheesy bread sticks. When I mentioned there were also nice, fresh string beans, well, that just made it worse.

WEDNESDAY
Tacos al pastor with pico de gallo

Something I’ve always wanted to try. I made the marinade the day before, and let me tell you, it was a pain in the neck. But it was fantastic. But it was a pain the neck. But it was so good! I think I need to find a simpler recipe that delivers the same flavor. 

This is a Mexican-Lebanese fusion dish. The BBC says:

How is al pastor different from carnitas, chorizo, pollo, pescado and other common taco toppings? For starters, by the way it’s cooked: the pork is first marinated with various spices (including achiote, which is native to Mexico) and then roasted by an open flame via the trompo. Next, the pork is carved off, placed inside a corn tortilla and topped with cilantro, onion and pineapple – much like lamb is shaved from a spit and served in some pita bread at a shwarma place.

I guess it’s the paprika, cinnamon, and cumin that give it a middle eastern twist, as well as the way the meat is supposed to be cooked. I did not happen to have a trompo, so I just put the thinly-sliced marinated meat in a shallow pan and shoved it under a hot broiler. For the recipe I used, from the cleverly-named site Carlsbad Cravings, you are supposed to slice the meat, then marinate it, then cook it, then chop it into bits, but I skipped the last step. No regrets.

First I broiled some pineapple spears on a greased pan. I love grilled/broiled pineapple. It amps up the syrupy sweetness, and the juicy pump under singed edges make an exciting texture. To me, okay?

I also made some simple pico de gallo from tomato, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and a little salt

and I had my tacos with sour cream, meat, pineapple, pico de gallo, and that’s it. Magnificent.

The pineapple is also supposed to be cut into chunks, but I left mine in spears – and again, no regrets. I used flour tortillas, which I prefer to corn, and which I warmed in the oven for 20 minutes before serving. 

So, that marinade. It’s not tremendously spicy, but instead has a warm, smoky, faintly nutty taste that’s set off gorgeously by the caramelized pineapple. Then the bright, piquant pico de gallo just makes it sing. Gosh, I wish I had some right now.

But as I said: Tremendous pain in the neck. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find dried Guajillo chiles in any local supermarket, so I bought them on Amazon. They came out of the bag flat and glossy, like fruit leather

but when I heated them up in a skillet to give them a singe, they puffed up like balloons, which was hilarious. (I have had kind of shitty week and I guess I was ready to be amused.)

Then you seed them and FOR THE LOVE OF MIGUEL DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES

then you simmer them to soften them up, which is lovely as well

and then you add them to the thirteen other ingredients in the food processor. One of the ingredients is achiote paste, which I also didn’t have, but which you can approximate by mixing together . . . eight other ingredients. So you can see how this was going. It wasn’t difficult, but it was a lot of ingredients! It was so tasty that I will make this recipe again someday; but I also wouldn’t mind if someone could suggest a simpler recipe. Also, you could speed up the process by not gasping and stopping to take pictures every few minutes, but where’s the fun in that?

We had tortilla chips to scoop up the rest of the pico de gallo. I’ll put a recipe card at the end for that. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien made the pizzas while I lay down and practiced being tired. I’m getting pretty good at it!

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

Least that’s what it says here. I think Damien’s going to make Marcella Hazan’s amazing three-ingredient sauce (recipe card below).

And now my story is all told. I think Damien is making some simple syrup so we can celebrate Cinqo de Gringo in style this year. How about you? Anything neat going on in your kitchen?

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

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!