Friday, November 28, 2008

I Don't Like Chick Flicks Either ...

In further interesting blog analysis quiz developments, Gender Analyzer is 54% positive that this blog is written by a ...

Woman.

Which we know is ... 100% right.

However the additional comment points out that the writing is quite gender neutral, which might account for the fact that both my other blogs crossed the line strongly as being written by a ... man.

Welcome to Your ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers Blog

I finally took that Typealyzer's test which analyzes the blog writing of this ENTJ person.

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.
Interestingly, the writing at Happy Catholic is INTP - The Thinkers while Forgotten Classic's author writing shows ISTP - The Mechanics. Once again, we see that analysis can only handle so much complexity.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The "Funny Bone" in Our Thanksgiving Menu

Here's an idea I'm going to try this year, based on a recipe in (of all places) the Wall Street Journal.

Bake 4 medium sweet potatoes. Whip with a can of coconut milk and 2 t. of brown sugar.

I can play around with sweet potato recipes because only Rose will try them and she's not married to any particular way of fixing them since I've always goofed around with them.

Ok, it's just a touch more complicated, so here's the actual recipe. I'm making a half recipe. At least I think I am. It's darned hard to tell what "medium" is in sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes Kittichai

Serves 8
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 65 to 80 minutes

8 medium sweet potatoes
2 cups coconut milk, approximately
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Set the sweet potatoes in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. After 20 minutes, perforate the potatoes in several places to prevent bursting. They are done when they can be easily pierced with a fork all the way through their thickest part.

  • Let cool, then peel. Cut up roughly and process two or three at a time until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan.

  • Bring the coconut milk to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes with the cinnamon stick and, if you are using it, the brown sugar. Strain and whisk into the sweet potato purée. (We think the brown sugar distracts from the suave and original mixture of sweet potato and coconut milk. Without it, the purée is truer to its vegetable roots, so to speak.) Add the coconut milk a cup at a time until you get the consistency you like. We use the whole amount, which yields an unctuous but light purée, with a consistency similar to Chef Joël Robuchon's legendary butter-rich mashed potatoes.

  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reheat just before serving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I've Grown Accustomed to Shopping for Only Two ...

Certainly that is the case when it concerns my grocery shopping. Both girls are coming home for Thanksgiving break and when I read over my list, combined with necessary Thanksgiving feast supplies, it looked to me as if I were preparing for an army to descend upon us.

Not that they eat so much, after all. But it is doubling my usual shopping which I finally had gotten used to cutting down to size for two and, it must be faced, that there are some things which they consume more of than we do. For instance, my old habits of buying 2-3 gallons of milk weekly, instead of the current 1/2 gallon ...

However, the extra scurrying and buying and laying in of provisions makes me feel celebratory in advance. That is a nice thing and no doubt about it.

Also, I was at the store when I suddenly realized that I will have the perfect chance to try out Sara Roahen's recipe for Turkey Bone Gumbo. She very kindly sent an email and then some of her recipes after reading my review of her book. I probably will have to freeze the carcass and make it the weekend after as Hannah has requested Mexican food and my family's tradition of chef salad (with turkey, blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon ... mmmm, crumbled bacon ....) must be satisfied before they return to college next Sunday. However, the prospect of trying out that recipe is exciting also. (Y'all know that sometimes it takes very little to get me going ...)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Menu

This year I'm not making anything new. These, for us, represent the perfect versions of their oeuvre.

It is strictly our favorites with the only variations allowed being in the cranberry relish and sweet potatoes ... and that is only because I am the only one who eats them. Our day-after-Thanksgiving meal also is mandated by tradition. Chef salad featuring turkey (of course), blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon (the real thing please!) on top. Mmmmmm, crumbled bacon ...

Here are a few links to recipes I've posted before and am reposting that we'll have at the feast.

Holiday Central
Ok, not my recipes but O Chef must answer just about every question you could think of there ... including any that my "short-hand" recipes may leave you with!

Herbed Thanksgiving Stuffing
This is the best stuffing ever and cooks in a slow cooker. I have made this five times now and never been disappointed. It really frees up the oven for other things and, if you happen to have a problem with sticking your hand up a turkey (no problemo here) then you're set free from that as well.

Skillet Cornbread
If you happen to like cornbread stuffing (which I do not), you may want to make this for your base. I've never found a better recipe.

Pecan Topped Sweet Potato Casserole
This was new for Thanksgiving last year and it was delicious.

Cranberry Ginger Relish
I made this last year. Then I made another recipe when that ran out ... and then another. Well, you get the idea.

Perfect Piecrust
This is not a misnomer. Very easy and very delicious. It is long but that is to give detailed directions. You can't go wrong with this.

Pecan Pie
This is non-negotiable. Gotta have it.

Pumpkin Pie

Are you allowed to have Thanksgiving without this? Or watch the Cowboys play without having some? Nope.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do these turkeys get any bigger?

Then there’s the time a lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn’t find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” The stock boy replied, “No ma’am, they’re dead.”
Talking turkey with the Butterball Help Line ... Coffee Klatch has a hilarious round up of true stories from the hardworking help-line staff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Keep Seeing References to How To Manage a Meatless Thanksgiving

First of all, what are these people? Communists?

Secondly, if a vegetarian can't find plenty of delicious vegetable dishes at a standard Thanksgiving feast then they're just not trying hard enough.

Or not going to the right house. C'mon by ... we'll fix you up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pasta with Parmigiano-Regianno

Following up yesterday's simple pasta dish comes one that is even simpler and quite as good in its own humble way. I used to make it regularly but had forgotten it over time as happens if one cooks for a long enough time.

Then I read Michael Ruhlman's article, The Fallacy of the Quick-and-Easy Cookbook. He isn't talking about what we might usually think of as quick-and-easy but excoriating those who publish cookbooks under the conceit that one might duplicate high cuisine with little effort in the home kitchen. Go read, but here's a little taste to whet your appetite ...
What I’m criticizing here is the conceit of this cookbook, and all others that claim to make refined cuisine simple for the home. It makes me crazy not because it’s fundamentally a lie, though that’s never a good thing, but rather because publishers don’t seem to recognize that it’s a lie, and they want to keep on telling it to us.

Can you imagine a book called The French Laundry Cookbook Made Simple? Such food would cease to be French Laundry food.

At the end he gives a recipe for one of the simplest of dishes that is truly delicious, provided one has good ingredients. I include it here not only to jog my memory occasionally but to make it available to Hannah and Rose as it is the perfect college student meal and can feed several people heartily.

It is simple, fairly economical, and can be either enjoyed as a main dish with salad or as a side dish accompanying a straight forward meat dish such as grilled chicken.

Pasta with Parmigiano-Regianno

Kosher salt as needed
1 pound dried pasta
4 ounces/1 stick of butter cut into four pieces (I used 1/2 stick butter which was plenty)
1 cup coarsely and freshly grated, excellent Parmigiano-Regianno

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (salted, meaning that it tastes nicely seasoned). Place a large oven proof bowl in your oven and turn the oven to 200 degrees F. Drop the pasta in the water and cook it just until it’s tender, then drain it. Remove the bowl from the oven and toss the butter and pasta in the bowl until the butter is melted and the pasta is evenly coated with the butter. Taste the pasta. If it needs more salt, add it now (remember that the cheese you’re about to add is salty). Divide the pasta among four to six bowls and sprinkle each with the Regianno. Serve with a delicious red wine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pasta Baked with Bechamel and Parmigiano

I made this for a sick friend the other day (and kept some for us as well). It was posted in 2005 and that's too long ago, just for those who, like me, don't look through the archives often enough. So I'm reposting it below. This is simple, economical, and delicious. That's a too-rare combination. Give it a try.

Late in getting this up here but better late than never. I hadn't made this for years. It is one of those things that I just "forgot" to make but I'll remember from now on because everyone loved it. We had this for Ash Wednesday and the leftovers on Friday. This regional dish is perfect for those meatless Lenten Fridays or just as comfort food. It is a universal pleaser that makes a similar but nice change from the standard Macaroni and Cheese or Tuna Casserole.

This is from Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano. I just love this book. Not only does Biba write in such an enthusiastic way about Italian food and trattorias, but the recipes generally are simple and they always work. The nutmeg may sound strange but don't skip it. My mother always put a pinch of nutmeg into a white sauce, which is what bechamel is, and it adds just a little something delicious.

For the bechamel sauce
3 cups milk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt

To complete the dish
1 pound rigatoni (I use whatever shape looks good or I have around)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

To prepare the bechamel sauce, heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. (I do this in the microwave.) Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the flour. Lower the heat to medium-low and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. Cook and stir about 2 minutes, without letting the flour brown.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the milk all at once. Mix energetically to prevent lumps. Put the saucepan back over low heat, season with salt, and cook gently, mixing constantly, until the sauce has a medium-thick consistency, 3-5 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a bit more milk. If the sauce is too thin, cook it a little longer. Cover the pan and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a baking pan generously. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the rigatoni. Cook, uncovered, over high heat until almost done.

Drain the pasta and place it in the baking dish. Season the bechamel with the nutmeg and mix to combine. Add the bechamel to the pasta and mix well. (I put everything back into the pot that the pasta cooked in and mix it there. This baking dish technique is pretty messy.) Sprinkle the pasta with the parmigiano and dot with the butter. Bake until cheese is melted and pasta has a nice golden color, 12-15 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 4-6 servings.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Beef-Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad

From Beyond the Great Wall, another of the wonderful books by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. This is a warm salad from Inner Mongolia which the authors posit may be a fusion dish of some kind, possibly with a Russian influence.

I turned it into a main dish by the simple expediency of serving it with rice. Oh, so very good ... and it looked just like the picture in the book. It will not only make your taste buds sit up and sing but will be easy on the budget as well.

Beef-Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad

About 4 packed cups coarsely torn romaine lettuce

Dressing
1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 pound (1 packed cup) ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon Jinjiang (black rice) vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil

Place the lettuce in a wide salad bowl or serving dish and set aside.

Place a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. toss in the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the ginger. Stir-fry over medium-high to medium heat until slightly softened and starting to turn color. Add the meat and use your spatula to break it up so there are no lumps at all, then add the salt and stir-fry until most of the meat has changed color. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir to blend. Add the warm water and stir to blend. (The dressing can be prepared ahead to this point and set aside for up to 20 minutes. When you are ready to proceed, bring to a boil.)

While the dressing mixture is coming to a boil, place the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir in the cold water to make a smooth paste. Once the liquid is bubbling in the pan, give the cornstarch mixture a final stir, add to the pan, and stir for about 1 minute, the liquid will thicken and become smoother. Taste for salt, and add a little salt or soy sauce if you wish. Add the sesame oil and stir once,then pour onto the lettuce. Immediately toss the salad to expose all the greens to the hot dressing. Serve Immediately (or see Note).

Serves 4 as a salad or side dish.

Note on Texture: If you use romaine lettuce, the salad will have good crunch as well as some wilted softer textures when you first serve it. We love the contrast. If you prefer a softer texture, either let the salad stand for 5 minutes before serving it, to give the greens more time to soften in the warm dressing, or use leaf lettuce instead of romaine.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Email Notice

We had a huge server crash yesterday and among other major things, one thing that went down was email.

If you have sent me an email in the last week or so and had been waiting for an answer or to see a notice posted, etc., please be aware that it has been lost to me for good. If I answered since yesterday afternoon then I've got your communication.

Feel free to resend. I am getting emails now, but can't answer them from home for the time being. I'll probably set up another account but am waiting to see how things are going in picking through the wreckage.