Kind of Good Stuff

52cookbooksThis was one of the worst dinners I’ve made in a while.  Worst technically.  I don’t really know if it was the cookbook or if it was just me but OH boy.  Halfway through cooking and half burned I was ready to chuck it and order a pizza.  I have had pretty good luck with Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff cookbook in the past, whipping up burgers and a wedge salad or two.  I have noticed an error or two in the writing, notably the cheese sauce measurements and the lack of sauce for the mac & cheese but they were fairly easy catches for me as a home-cook.  I’m not sure everyone would be so happy when they tried the cheese sauce and it’s way over population of flour.    I can usually spot errors quickly and compensate.   I don’t know if this recipe just got me on a bad night or what.  Fried Chicken sandwiches and honey mustard sauce.  Seems relatively easy right?  RIGHT?!  goodstuff

Ok, the honey mustard, I halved because I couldn’t imagine needing two cups of honey mustard …Ever.  But, I reduced as stated and ended up with a thick mass of ginger and mustard flavored honey.  I used about 2 Tablespoons and dumped a cup down the drain after dinner.  That was kind of a messy waste.  I made the patties and chilled them, as stated, before dredging in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.  Those breadcrumbs burned before the chicken was anywhere close to being done.  I ended up throwing the whole thing in the oven to bake so that we could actually eat the way underdone chicken.   Not my best effort.  While I like a few of the burgers in this book, particularly the ‘Prez Obama‘ the whole thing is a bit overwrought I think.  If you are in DC it would probably be better just to go to the restaurant.   What’s the worst thing you ever made?

A Hot Mess

52cookbooksI have made something that could rightly be called – Pie-l (Pile for the uninitiated. )  I call it a hot mess.   I flipped through The Pioneer Women Cooks:  Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl trying to find something to add to our week and found this pie  Lately I’ve just wanted to eat pie for some reason.  It seemed like it would be a quick recipe and I had a pie crust in the freezer so I pulled it out and picked up the Granny Smith apples at the store.  It is an easy recipe—sort of.  In an ideal world I’d be like Ree Drummond and make my own crust and make enough to serve my cowhands and a pack of kids.  She might be accidental but she learned the rules and is living it up!  I just made a skimpy one pie that had holes in the crust through which all my butter and and sugar leaked out onto the pan.  Thank goodness I had lined the cooked sheet with a hunk of parchment because I don’t think that pie would have come up otherwise.  All my goo leaked out leaving probably what would have been a healthier baked apples in a tiny bit of crust but I scooped up what was salvageable and drizzled it on along with pouring on a small stream of salted caramel Torani that we had in the pantry to fill in for the part that was now charred onto the pan…  Ree’s cookbook is good if you don’t mind lots of butter and cream.  I’m not saying either of those are a bad thing but they work it off on the ranch.  Our sofa isn’t nearly as …strenous.  I’ve made a few recipes from the book, a creamy spaghetti, some brisket and such.  My sister made the mashed potato recipe for Thanksgiving and I think she halved it to serve like 10 people.   Good hearty midwestern cookin’.pioneerwomencooks

all pasta isn’t created equal

52cookbooksIf you do any reading of food blog or magazines or watch more than one show on the Food Network you get some of the same mantras over and over ad infinitum.  They include but are not limited to:

  • don’t cook garlic on too high a heat.  It will burn and be bitter.
  • when zesting a lime or lemon only take off the thinnest colored part of the skin.  The white pith is bitter.
  • use the best ingredients you can afford.  I never know what that means.  I think for me it is use the best I am willing to pay for.
  • Always think in a high pitched almost mock Italian when thinking about prosciutto, parmigiano or spagitti.  (You know I know how to spell spaghetti.)

giadaGiada De Laurentiis is a force.  Food Network loves her and over the years she has kind of come into her own and become more like …herself.  I don’t like to watch her so much as I feel like her falsetto Italian words are grating the edges of my soul.  I do have one of her books however and we’ve made good work out of several recipes inside so I suppose I can’t complain about her too much.  Maybe I’m just jealous.  Z requested this recipe from everyday italian  last week when he was sick with a sinus infection.  His happy place in comfort food is noodles.   Buttered noodles, ramen noodles, macaroni & cheese, Alfredo, etc.  We had a package of Prosciutto in the freezer along with a bag of orechiette in the pantry from our last Trader Joe’s run in Sarasota.  Combined with fresh wedge of parmesan we were off to the races.  This book is nicely Italian in that it isn’t ingredient heavy.  This is basically pasta, olive oil, bread crumbs, prosciutto & parm.  All things we regularly have around even if nothing is waiting for their use.  It’s a half hour type recipe.  The ‘sauce’ for the pasta comes together while the water comes up to a boil and the pasta cooks.  I threw in some steamed broccoli and a bottle of Lambrusco (also from TJ’s) to round it out.   A side note about the TJ’s orrechiette-it isn’t my favorite.  It’s a bit too cupped and even is a huge pot of salted water they tend to stick together into little stacks of hats which I don’t love.  Sometimes you get what you pay for.  The cookbook though, is an easy reader and the recipes come from that happy Italian place where they sit around the table every night to something luscious and comforting.  Dinner is served.


Brunswick Stew

52cookbooksWell, here is some advice for you.  Read the recipe.  All of it.  Including how many servings it makes.  If you are not feeding a bunk house full of ranch hands you may want to hold back on this.  I didn’t think about what I was doing before I made this recipe.  I blindly bought ingredients.  Blindly.  Scroll it back a second.  Four Rivers is a local smokehouse here in Orlando with a massive cultish following.  People. Love. That. Place.  It has brisket.  It has smoked jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.  It has my favorite coconut cake.  In fact, I want it right now.  I bought the cookbook when it went on sale a few months ago after flipping though it and realizing it was most of the menu in writing.  This is all developed by a regular guy who loves to eat things, particularly things topped with an onion ring.  John Rivers is a good guy who sells good food and is doing well for it.  His book is easy to read and follow…you just have to do it.  Note to self.

He’s even opening a new chicken joint soon that I am more than excited about.  So, in this quest to try new things and open my books I made a Brunswick stew recipe out of the book.  I probably could have put thirty seconds of thought into it and realized that it would feed a small army (which we are not.)  brunswickIt is a BBQ sauced soup that is full of brisket, chicken (it called for smoked, I used rotisserie) and sausage alongside those cowboy staples corn, diced potato and baby lima beans.  It made about 2 gallons.  I’ve eaten it three times, Z twice and our lunchmates  (X3) ate it today too.  That’s eight servings and I estimate 6 or 8 left in the fridge.   It is pretty dang good though, on cornbread (so I heard today at lunch) or with buttered yeasty rolls (my personal favorite.)  The picture here is rather soupy.  Only the first two bowls were soupy like that.  The rest is fairly just spoonfuls of meat and vegetables in the savory sauce.  I happily had a bottle of 4R hot on hand when I was cooking.  The rest of the book beckons…  I may just have to buy a smoker.



52cookbooksThis week I’ve kind of been a disaster.  I’m not sure exactly what I was doing when I made the menu for the week… side note…today I went on a free Menchie’s run (It’s National Froyo Day and they gave away 6oz for free)  and I got laughed at for making a weekly menu for dinners.  Let me tell you something.  I like going to the grocery store as much as the next person but I have a system for getting it done in one go because I don’t have the time nor inclination to go after work.  Here’s how it goes.

  1.  I open up the pantry, fridge and freezer and see what’s in there.  Is there anything I ought to use?  What could it be part of?
  2. Is the any cookbook or Pinterest recipe calling me?
  3. Is there a variety of meats including a meat light night?
  4. Is that time on Sunday for a long cooking dish?
  5. Do all the dinners transform into lunches?

Once I’ve gone through those things and listing what I need to make them I fill in breakfast items and items to round out lunches and head to the store.  The whole thing takes an hour or two from blank paper to back in the door with bags in tow.  As I’ve said before we cook roughly 5 nights a week and I don’t get too many complaints.   I also pack lunches while I get together my breakfast in the morning for myself and Z.  We are lucky to be able to eat together almost every day.  crepes

Anyway, back to dinner.  I’ve been a bit of chaos this week, not the right dinners to achieve lunches in a quick easy way and no bread for sandwiches either.  But I did manage one good one-out of one of the cookbooks for this year’s 52 Cookbooks challenge.  The book is Crêpes by Lou Seibert Pappas and is a single topic volume all about the delicious thin pan-fried cakes.  There are lots of options and varieties along with a big variety of fillings-very accessible to a home cook.  I realize most people wouldn’t necessarily have a crepe pan but I think any non-stick skillet would work ok.  The benefit of a crepe pan is low sides for the flip.  Last night I made regular old crêpes out of regular flour.  They turned out pretty well, thin with a bit of tender chew-I couldn’t get any golden bits for some reason-my stove can be touchy but they were fairly well done.  I filled them up with a lovely bechamel turned mornay sauce with shredded gruyere and diced country ham.  I served them folded alongside arugula dressed in a nice acidic capery vinaigrette-the salad cutting the richness of the dish.  It was a yummy dinner and it made for a great lunch too.  Good on that-twice!