marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

I'd said in an earlier post (maybe last week; I don't keep track of such things too well, anymore) that I was never posting publicly again, and I'm never posting publicly again, but I forgot about this stupid post I write every year for Thanksgiving, so I guess I'll write it, but unless my worldview changes considerably - mostly for the better - there won't be much more public posting - except maybe some activist/political this and/or !signalboost that because I'm just...I could say a lot more, but in short, nope.

Girlfriend's got other places to go.

It's not that I'll never write again; I'll still have my usual free-for-alls under lock, if I so choose, and I'll still write publicly, I just don't know where, or why, or how often, or anything else.

And so, on with my normal (if you can call it that!) post...


Today I'm thankful, as always, for not having turkey. Bad enough to live in a country bursting with them, you know? So many turkeys, it's enough to make me cluck with apprehension.

I'm also thankful this Thanksgiving was much better than all but one of the last four were, simply because I spent it in our own home, set up and cleaned to my liking, listening to music I wanted and watching TV with shows I liked on it, with just the people around me whom I chose and of course my cats, and ate exactly what I damn well felt like after preparing the food to my liking, myself. I apologize for sounding a bit like Ayn Rand here, but a girl's got her reasons.

You can't take these seemingly small things for granted. If you do, you don't know how lucky you are, nor how thankful you should truly be for it.

Because this year !I cooked or !I made most of the comestibles, I can tell you there was no turkey in sight. There was delicious cured ham, fresh baked sweet potatoes and organic butter from a new whole-foods store that opened up recently, and OP, who's finally made peace with both his haircut and my feelings about how I get to decide who I am, not anyone else, contributed a divine fresh Brussels sprouts au gratin topped with Gruyere cheese and chopped bacon.

I took a small break on pre-dinner apps this year...there were many, as usual when I do the Thanksgiving spread, but I went mostly for jars, cans and containers this time because *ahem* I has !lazy, which caused a quick, easy spread of smoked oysters, pickled artichoke hearts, fresh kalamata olives, pickled onions and crackers to unfold before our eyes, while I only made the chicken liver pate and deviled eggs from scratch this time. The pate was a first for me; I actually made it ahead, then let it set up in the fridge overnight. It was...aaaahhh, so good.

I think the only thing missing, besides family, cats and a few celebrities I miss and wish were still with us, was someone else to feed. I wanted someone who'd truly appreciate the food and maybe even the company, but though I checked around, I couldn't find the right person.

There's always Christmas, though. I really want to have someone I don't know over for dinner.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Because why would I post normal things?

Uncooked vegetables for shrimp curry

Raw ingredients for shrimp curry in a cast iron pan on the stove.

Uncooked but fully assembled pizza

Raw ingredients on uncooked pizza dough, all in a pizza pan about to go in the oven

Some foods look better raw than cooked - that's just how it is. Both meals came out tasty but not as good-looking as they were raw.

The pizza was a treat Other Person made tonight with Publix pizza dough, shallots (we get 10-15 for just $1.49 at the local Asian market), fresh basil from the back porch, garlic crushed in the stone mortar and pestle (which I snagged for just $10 at the Asian market because the pestle was broken, but some super glue set that right real quick), thick shredded mozz, thin-sliced cherry tomatoes, Barilla spicy marinara, and Boar's Head pepperoni, which I was grateful for after taking a survey asking if I'd like to buy bags of crispy pepperoni slices like you get on pizzeria pizza. Well, yes, I would, enough to rush out in my nightclothes right now, where are these crispy little delights you speak of?

Talk about sudden cravings.

The pizza was delicious. Never tried Publix's pizza dough before but as I commented to OP after a few bites, they must've stolen the recipe from some Italian restaurant back in NY, because it did taste authentic.

Some weird flea medicine

My neighbor's big spray bottle of flea medicine

My mom's dead spider plant

My mom's dead spider plant, as seen on the back porch

The weird flea medicine is my neighbor's. I took a picture to Google it when I got back home (but still haven't Googled) but then I thought I'd post the pic to ask the rest of y'all, has anyone tried this? Is it any good? Her entire apartment smells of peppermint from spraying her cats (she's got the two black kittens I never took and some others) and her rug.

The Activyl flea medicine came today. We applied it to all five kitties while the pizza cooked. I was surprised it came so quick, but glad, because in the last few days I've picked a flea off Bowie's face and OP's picked one off of Pip, and I've come to see flea dirt everywhere (yes, even in my dreams, where our entire living room was coated in flea eggs this morning) so it couldn't get here fast enough unless someone airdropped it even as I clicked "Add to cart".

The last one's called "My mom's dead spider pant" because she said it would die before she did, so before May of 2012. I hate to say it lived - I wish it'd been the other way around, and the plant died just days after her prediction while she went on to live forever, but alas, it was not so. As crazed and really no longer myself as I was by then, something about her saying it would die - at all, much less before she did - was the proverbial flag in the bull's face.

Mom got too sick to know or care if the plant lived but I wouldn't give up on it. It had maybe a tiny handful of half-dead leaves when she passed but by then I'd kept it alive single-handedly and nurtured it back to glowing health by that fall so it looked mostly like the picture above. Then a frost killed it at the house out in the woods about two years ago.

What you see in the picture above? Is not the plant she predicted would die two years before it actually did. It's one of the children it had. Just one.

I have four more pots holding them, and between those there are dozens more babies hanging off those, so her dead plant lives on. I'd keep it going forever, in memory of her, if I could.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Not all the food...some of it...

Sunday

Thick-cut rib eye, a slab big enough to serve two with a few bites still left over, on sale...this thing was so beautiful I hated cooking it. I should have taken a picture before I did. There's something awe-inspiring about the sheen of a good piece of meat, the thickness and marbling...it was tempting to go all Paleo and just eat the damn thing raw. Kosher rock sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, and garlic dry rub on it about 20 minutes, then slapped it on the Foreman grill until medium-rare/almost medium-done. Served with fresh-tossed salad.

Monday

Homemade shrimp salad (shrimp on sale)...it's been close to 100 degrees 'round here forever and one night I was just too hot (even with the A/C running...but I'd been out walking earlier that day) to cook. I didn't want to heat up the kitchen, I didn't want hot food in my mouth...so Publix had a pound and a half of shrimp on sale for under $10. I was like, "Awesome" and picked up a bag. Cooked 'til just pink, plunged directly into an ice bath, then drained with finely ground sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, a touch of garlic powder, a touch of red pepper flakes, mayo, celery stalk sliced fine with some leaves chopped up, fresh minced onion, a heaping teaspoon of pickle relish, about a tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice...so good. I ate it right out of the bowl I put some of it in, while Other Person ate it on a kaiser roll slathered with even more mayo, salt and pepper and lettuce leaves. Served with fresh tossed salad.

Tuesday

Rotisserie chicken...Other Person got off work so late I didn't feel like cooking. We still had to hit the store for other things so I picked up a rotisserie chicken. This was not my proudest cooking moment, as I made Past-a-Roni White Cheddar shells to go with it (processed foods are something I run circles around - as a general rule - in trying to avoid, but this particular flavor is hard to resist) and uh, another tossed salad. We eat a lot of salad, right, but really we don't. I can go months and make like, three salads altogether, and not even want those. I'm still fighting my childhood thing of hating veggies, though they're not bad once I eat them. With the heat, though, my salad consumption's gone through the roof.

Wednesday

Chicken and mushroom penne...this used up some leftover rotisserie chicken, some stock made from another chicken I'd cooked the week before, and some fresh baby portabello mushrooms about to cross the Great Divide. Sauteed mushrooms with jarred minced garlic, regular ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, crushed oregano, finely ground sea salt, and some cooked, chunked chicken in butter, added a touch of heavy cream, and served it over fresh-cooked penne with Parmesan. This was one of the easier meals I pulled off for it being pretty much from scratch.

Thursday

Pork loin...there was a pork loin in here, somewhere...probably Thursday (I use regular loin, not tenderloin..with plain loin you get dark and light meat, and it cooks up more tender; almost impossible to ruin). Same kosher rock sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, and garlic dry rub, then in the oven until just past medium-well. Served with black beans and rice...cook jasmine rice, drain, add drained/rinsed black beans and toss together. One of the best side dishes I've ever come up with (if you don't like the rice/bean mixture so dry you can toss it with some olive oil or butter, which I do, sometimes).

Friday

Homemade French onion soup...the Pioneer Woman has taken something I normally only eat in restaurants because that's the only right way to have it and made it so it's all I ever want to eat again. She's also convinced me that adding chili powder to mac and cheese is a good thing to do (I wouldn't make her mac and cheese again after trying it a few months ago - too much flour, too mushy - but adding chili powder to mac and cheese is a truly brilliant food hack). We've made this three times in a month...first time I helped Other Person, who caramelized the onions in the oven as the recipe calls for. We used homemade chicken stock, and red wine instead of white, and it was just amazing.

The next batch Other Person made but didn't use Ree's recipe. It was not quite so good (thinner; used all beef stock and a lot of thyme). The next time I made it while Other Person was at work and used Ree's recipe, but caramelized the onions on the stovetop in a cast iron Dutch oven instead of in the oven-oven, to save time. Almost as good as the first batch, but I didn't have quite enough wine on hand and used less onions simply to use up what I had by making more of this soup. Cooked this batch with homemade stock made from the leftover rotisserie chicken and still have over a quart of it left over.

Saturday

Shrimp curry...I took my go-to chicken curry recipe and substituted shrimp, which used up the rest of the shrimp from Publix. I always make a few changes...extra virgin coconut oil instead of vegetable oil adds a nice, mild hint of coconut...I add fresh garlic only right before the stock goes in...I use more of every spice and seasoning throughout the assembling and cooking process, and use garlic powder in addition to fresh garlic and ginger powder in addition to fresh ginger. I don't measure the yogurt (I use plain Greek, I can't even recall offhand what the recipe calls for) but I just add enough to make it look creamy and sort of light yellow. So good. There's still tons of that left over, too.

Sunday

White clam sauce over leftover cooked penne...tonight I had cooked penne to get rid of and cherry tomatoes walking the Great Divide. Sliced them lengthwise and sauteed in butter with fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, basil leaves, finely ground sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, fresh-squeezed lemon juice...separated the clam juice from the canned clams, added some cornstarch, whisked the juice, poured it in the pan, added chardonnay, brought it to a boil, let it cook a few minutes, turned it off, threw the clams in, and served it over the penne reheated in butter in the Dutch oven. This was amazing - but only until I added a can of Geisha baby clams along with a few cans of chopped clams and ruined the whole thing. I have to remember to use only chopped clams.


Other Person came into some fresh peaches from Georgia via a friend which got turned into homemade peach cobbler today...I'm dying over it. Other Person can bake, while I cannot (I mean, I can just look at the ingredients for any baked dessert and burn them. With my eyes. On contact. It's hopeless.). This cobbler's absolute perfection.

They also decided to make their first-ever homemade Yorkshire pudding. I'm not jealous or anything of their baking abilities, hell no, not me. Anyway, I had exactly enough leftover beef grease from tacos we made the week before (I keep all leftover oils/greases/stocks in the freezer) to complete the recipe. Are any of y'all English? Me and Other Person are part-Brit, and while OP enjoys some English food, I do not. Except for Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and English hot mustard, I can find no redeeming qualities to English cuisine. Yorkshire pudding reminds me why that's so.

First off, it's not pudding. Second, it's not bread or cake - more like a baked shell with grease on the bottom. While it's sort of delectable right out of the oven (I ate one half of a pudding on sight last night; we had two) the grease flavor is a bit much and of course the, "You'd think someone blindfolded made this" presentation leaves much to desire. But it won't kill anyone, which is the one dependable thing about English cuisine: it's just good enough to eat, and just bad enough you hope you never have to again.


Next recipe...I've done it probably dozens of times since my 20s but I don't have the recipe anymore. Given it's that Eat Salad to Survive time of year, there's an authentic Italian antipasto I've been making forever that I can barely remember how to assemble anymore (especially not the quantities it calls for) because somewhere in the last 10 years I lost my recipe. It was from an Italian restaurant in NY that published their own recipe book. The recipes dated back to the 1930s-1940s. One was for a really neat antipasto (the book also had a recipe for anchovy sauce over steak that I can still recall, but it's so rich I don't make it much anymore).

Main ingredients are...a small block of deli salami, a small block of deli ham - boiled is best (you can add any other deli meat, like cappicola, prosciutto, pancetta), a block of sharp or extra sharp Provolone (I prefer extra sharp, but it's hard to find), a fennel bulb, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes (I prefer cherry), cucumbers...dice up the above. Add red or white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano leaves, fresh basil...then saute a lot of fresh, crushed garlic in maybe four tablespoons (?) extra virgin olive oil (I use vegetable oil because the garlic taste comes out much more clearly; I suppose you could also use a really light/mild coconut, grapeseed or canola oil) until the garlic just starts to brown. If it gets too brown the oil's ruined (too bitter). If the garlic's too light the garlic flavor won't be strong enough (indeed, I threw out many batches of garlic and oil to get this right, way back when).

Scrape the garlic out and throw it away. This is not the fun part because at just-brown, the garlic sticks like glue. Pour the garlic oil over the antipasto, mix and refrigerate. It lasts almost a week and the flavor is indelibly, indescribably good.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

I made slow cooker black bean chili again, my first try since the disastrous result I had on such a wintry night a few months ago. This time I a) pre-soaked the beans from 8 last night until 2:30 this afternoon (16 1/2 hours; the recipe, ridiculously enough, calls for not soaking them at all), 2) added twice the amount of baking soda the recipe calls for, 3) added 1/4 cup more water, and toward the end 4) almost doubled the amount of chili powder and cumin.

I cooked the entire mess on high for 4 hours.

IT WAS AMAZING

The most wondrous part was the beans were...not crunchy, exactly, but quite firm. I definitely got my dietary fiber intake for the day. As I told my dinner companion, "Well, I wouldn't want them mushy, but I wish they'd come out a bit softer". I mean, just a bit! Maybe a five hour cook time would've been closer to ideal.

Maybe next time I'll parboil and pre-soak the beans, as doing so allegedly produces "tender beans". "Consistently"! I'm also thinking of starting a DO Soak Your Beans! campaign (Anti Un-pre-soaked Beans - aka Anti-UPS) because websites which claim beans have "more flavor" un-pre-soaked are likely a) full of it and b) I can't even. My brain flees me on this.

As folks might recall, my last batch of beans was old, likely contributing to the Crunchy Chili Conundrum, but this time I ruled even that out by buying fresh Publix-brand beans with an expiration date almost two years from now which I stored in a cool, dark, dry place, so I'm fairly certain it's not age at work in this, at least not anymore (unless, of course, Publix's bean producer stored the beans for five years before selling them to Publix...anything's possible, which does beg the question: How does one make sure they buy a truly fresh bag of beans? Is there any known way to determine freshness, outside of growing and picking the beans yourself?).

My other question is, if the beans are bought seemingly fresh, stored correctly and used quickly after pre-soaking them for almost an entire day then a) how are they still firm after cooking them for four hours on high and a1) how does anyone get away with saying you could possibly improve the flavor at the expense of the texture? I don't think black beans taste better un-pre-soaked (did that, got the t-shirt; nuh-uh no thanks). Is there another bean that does have more flavor than the black bean if you don't pre-soak it? Because it seems to me the black bean is not the one.

Unbitterly Yours

The lemon thyme chicken I discussed a while back has been in pretty heavy rotation since I first dabbled with it but the last few times I made it I was surprised the aftertaste was pungent and bitter. I started questioning my taste buds: had they been missing until last week? Last time around I skipped the lemon zest the recipe calls for because a) I can't stand making lemon zest and b) I figured it was to blame for the aftertaste. Such an easy fix. The dish is perfect now. So to all the modifications I made I'll add don't use lemon zest, because if you have taste buds it ruins the whole thing.

Lemongrass Is A Thing

As one might imagine - because I talk a lot about cooking and cook all the time as it's cheaper and healthier than eating out - I watch a few cooking shows. One of my favorites (after staring at it indifferently as though the TV was turned off for oh, the last three years) is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (strangely enough, Guy never seems to find drive-ins). I'm kind of obsessed with pork so one episode stood out for me, in which he covers Bun-ker, a NYC Vietnamese restaurant that apparently cooks some mean pork loin (I mean, these folks literally take the loin and slice it into chops after marinating it in a dry rub for at least eight hours).

The problem with grabbing recipes from DDD is everything's done at whip-speed for the cameras, but luckily there's on-demand and rewind on one of our TVs, so a week after I first watched it I spent a good half hour rewinding in order to write the recipe down. I was relieved to see we had all the ingredients except lemongrass. Much "What is lemongrass?" ensued and even Google couldn't solve the mystery because outside of looking at it in this episode, I'd never seen or tasted it. So I put it on my shopping list thinking I'd need it to get the rub done right.

After what I went through to find it, I can tell you where not to look - not in Any Normal Place. There's a Whole Foods and several co-op markets just far enough away I refused to make a special trip, but outside of one or more of those stores having it (I really can't say) I can tell you no one else did. Even Publix only had a paste. A lemongrass paste.

I was like - under my breath, so the helpful produce guy wouldn't hear, "Wtf is that, even". He showed it to me and I thought to myself: "How do I convert lemongrass into an equivalent amount of paste? Will I use this whole thing up?" And then, because I'm anti-chemical and anti-corn syrup I got to thinking, "What's even in it?" but I couldn't see because I didn't have my glasses and then they wanted almost four dollars for it so I was like, "OK I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS SO JUST FORGET IT".

So I gave up on Vietnamese pork because lemongrass seemed like a pretty essential ingredient and I had no idea what to use in its place. Then maybe a week later I was in an Asian market when I spied it. It was not fresh, mind you! More like shaved and frozen in the same sort of tiny cup tomatoes come in for 99 cents at Walmart. My brain was like, "YES YES YES, THIS WILL WORK" but even then I wondered if I was simply being desperate. I paid four dollars for that, trudged it home, and have been making some of the best pork loin of my life ever since.

There's nothing like it. It's like if lemon and ginger ever got crossbred. And I have both, so now I know what to substitute, but the shaved texture of it is really nice on pork, and seems to work with the other ingredients to make a nice, solid, crispy coating - almost like crispy skin on roasted chicken.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

My write-in answer to the poll question: "Here is a food that is *not* improved by the addition of bacon" was "sweetened cereal" because yeah, no, maybe not. And because I don't feel like inflicting this comment upon her DW (no one asked; no one cares!) I'll add my "but" to this post where I can expound upon it without turning someone else's something off-topic: I like thin (but not too thin; USan restaurants today are taking what we consider "thin" bacon and halving it by both width and thickness to save money) and crispy bacon BUT I'm super-picky about it even if both conditions are met.

It has to have slightly more fat than meat as judged by peering through both sides of the clear window before placing the package in my cart. It's preferable if at least one but ideally both ends of the bacon are all fat, with streaking seen throughout the rest.

When it's cooked (at high heat under the broiler; I'm like, OCD about this) if it comes out dry I'll eat less than I would otherwise and crumble the rest for salads, mac 'n cheese or carbonara. If it comes out too greasy (ie: is lying in puddles of fat) I'll recook it to burn the fat off. If even that fails (because I have a particularly greasy batch) I'll pat it dry (the texture will usually be too soft because overly-greasy bacon never crisps up) and try to deal with it, but I'm practically revolted.

Bacon only looks, tastes, and feels right to me if it's a) thin but not too thin, b) crispy but not too dry and c) not too greasy. Ideally there's a thin layer of tiny fat bubbles dancing across the top of each piece as I put them on the plate...ah, now that's perfection.

I don't like what USans call Canadian bacon but will eat it on egg sandwiches and eggs Benedict because that's what you do, but to me, that's ham. I'm not very familiar with the thick cut bacon discussed in the linked poll but have eaten it as it's sold in the US, but I don't like to unless it's Oscar Mayer, which I can cook the hell out of and make it taste almost as good as the thinner stuff.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Wasn't lobster. The stores were all out presumably because of the holiday, making my idea not as original as I thought. So then this other idea popped into my head (once we got home and it was after 10 at night, of course): "We'll have roast chicken!" but alas, we didn't feel like going back to the store to get it (when you're debating whether or not to build an ark for all the rain we can't stop getting, repeatedly leaving to shop becomes so much less appealing).

But leave it to me, I'm never without a good plan or a convincing facsimile. So I mentally dug through my freezer and decided we'd still eat something non-traditional, ie, homemade shrimp scampi with wine, fresh garlic, butter and spices first baked, then run under the broiler, with the aforementioned mashed potatoes (hand-mashed with heavy cream, extra sharp hand-shredded Cheddar and lots of butter), a hand-torn tossed salad with all the trimmings (well, I'm out of tomatoes, so there was [not] that) and fresh homemade stuffed jalapenos (with goat cheese, extra-sharp Cheddar, heavy cream, and crumbled German beer sausage). Oh, and we also had fresh shrimp cocktail with my homemade cocktail sauce. If you'd like to me to cook at your house we can discuss rates; drop me a PM. :)

The whole meal was absolutely...fabulous. We were going to have the jalapenos and shrimp cocktail as appetizers but we were so hungry, and cooking times ran so close, we just sat down and yeah, ate all of it at once. One of the best Easter meals I've had in a while, and by a while I mean 4 or 5 years. Hope those of you who celebrate had a good one, too.