I feel you, brother. It reminds me of me as a kid. DO NOT LET THE FOOD TOUCH THE OTHER FOOD! Now I love combining flavors and textures to make a gestalt. We learn and grow. At least some of us. :)
I never understood it either. It was actually some kind of chicken salad, with apples or grapes, that made the light bulb go off for me. This huge portion of the food world that never made sense to me – mango salsa on pork, cranberry on turkey, etc – was suddenly made clear to me.
Cento, Colavita, and DeCecco are brands that I always come back to even when I get a wild hair and try something else. Must be a “c” thing. Oh, and cookie starts with C! I have to mail order some of the DeCecco shapes because I cannot find them around here.
I hated olives growing up. I tasted my first real olive at Nur deli in Raleigh when I was in my mid-20’s just because it happened to be on the plate with the other stuff. Hoooollleeeeee sheeeeeeit! was pretty much my reaction.
Olives are funny, aren’t they? We went from two kinds of olives when I was a kid (both canned) to olive bars with dozens of varieties in every supermarket. It’s like there was an olive renaissance.
Kinda love that place. Gonna be going out to Mission Valley later tonight after the rpg I’m playing in wraps up hit up Bada Wings :-D
Well, also we’ve been trained by turkey cold cuts, bacon, etc to think of turkey as not a very rich or oily meat. But a good, fresh roast turkey, especially the dark meat, is pretty rich. So, it makes sense to use a relish to cut it a bit.
The olive bar often has one of my other favorite things. Cornichons. (No spellcheck, not unicorns)
Hung out with a friend today and we did a bit of cooking as we went.
from How to Cook Everything Fast
That’s my plate - we each had two because nobody else wanted to join us and the recipe makes four. Sure, technically things can be scaled but, eh. The buns were supposed to be toasted lightly under the broiler but got left in a little long. That’s what’s left after the charred parts were scraped off. I thought about grabbing new ones from the bakery across the street but they closed 40 minutes previously.
Bottom layer is grated (via food processor - 15 seconds of processing, 4+ minutes of washing up after) carrot, cucumber and daikon radish tossed with sugar and salt and left to pickle a bit in a colander in the sink while layer two was going. Namely, a pound of ground pork browned with ginger and garlic and then cooked an additional few minutes with a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce stirred in. Supposed to be half and half fish sauce and soy sauce but I thought for sure I had soy sauce and then didn’t. meanwhile I still have most of a giant bottle of fish sauce bought years ago. Then mixed half a cup of mayo with some sriracha sauce and drizzled that over the top, and finally a few sprigs of cilantro (which doesn’t seem to have registered in the photo but it’s there).
We followed that up with some
Macaroni Salad with Cheddar and Chipotle
from Pasta Revolution
but only a little bit because we were pretty full by then. Weirdly, the giant grocery store we went to was out of macaroni seemingly entirely - not in the main pasta section, not in the expensive organic/gluten free sections. Finally we found a single box someone had stashed as if hoarding it for a later trip in an unrelated area. No idea what was going on there.
But yeah, pretty straightforward. Cook macaroni til tender, drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and then mix in chopped red onion, minced celery, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, minced fresh parsley, minced canned chipotle chile in adobo, lemon juice, dijon mustard, garlic powder, and cayenne and let sit for a couple minutes. Then mix in a bunch of mayo, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (we forgot to do this, I now realize) and serve. I still have a whole bunch in the fridge, so I’ll have to work on getting through it over the next few days.
Finally, for dinner we had
Blackened Chicken Sandwiches with Pickled Red Onions
from How to Cook Everything Fast
This was my friend’s plate - he’s neater at assembling these things.
You start out by bringing a half cup of red wine vinegar and a half cup of water plus a tablespoon of sugar and some salt to a boil, then slicing a medium red onion. Once the vinegar mixture is boiling you add the onion, submerge as best as possible, turn off the heat, and leave it to sit. We actually did this before starting in on the banh mi and macaroni salad, so it sat for probably 6-7 hours pickling and came out beautifully - the recipe is meant to be fast so only involves 10-15 minutes of pickling usually. Maybe 20. Then you get some oil going in a skillet, put together a spice mix of chili powder, cumin, coriander and salt, cut two boneless chicken breasts in half horizontally to make cutlets, and rub the spice mix into both sides of all four cutlets, then brown both sides of each cutlet, probably in two sets to avoid crowding the skillet. Meanwhile you slice an avocado, strip some cilantro leaves off some sprigs, and crumble some queso fresco. Once the chicken is ready, you put a cutlet in each bun, then avocado, then pickled onions, then queso fresco, then cilantro. Honestly, turned out the avocado, onions and queso fresco were plenty all by themselves. The chicken was nice but not necessary. We were full enough after these (my friend did not even get halfway through the second) to not make it to a second pass at the macaroni salad.
Fun fact about the mayo: as we were looking for the best mayo purchase we saw a brand entitled “Just Mayo” proudly advertising being egg-free. I don’t know what that is but it sure as fuck isn’t mayo.
Thanksgiving 2017: Part I
This was such a weird Thanksgiving. The thing I was most worried about turned out to be the best thing I made. Without a doubt. Everything else was okay. I just totally lost the thread with regard to timing. Which is, I think, the key factor in getting a meal like this right.
Still, most stuff turned out just fine. My dad, who comes out here to California from Virginia for Thanksgiving every year, prefers Cornish Game Hens when I cook them. I like to make a turkey, but he likes those. So…hens. We bought some hens and got them to thawing. I usually like to roast them whole, with aromatics, kind of like mini-turkeys. But like everybody gets their own turkey. It’s kind of fun.
However, the morning of Thanksgiving I found out my brother was flying into town from China, and we might have a couple of other orphan guests, so I decided to split the hens and roast them that way. But that’s kind of the cool thing about cooking for Thanksgiving. You think you’re cooking for six people, and only four are meat eaters…but hey! Maybe eight people will show up on the day! Go!
The hens looked horrible to me when I took them out of the oven. I tried this honey/orange/butter glaze thing that made them look totally burned…
…and messy and gross–especially since I realize I need a new roasting pan–but once they rested and got on the plates…magic. They tasted great. Great. The kids even liked them! I couldn’t believe it. Also, eating those little hens with your hands makes people loosen up. It’s a nice thing.
I was so nervous as I got everything together, but my girlfriend assured me when they came out of the oven that they looked great. “If I ate meat,” she said, “I would totally be excited about these.”
Part of this was encouragement, as partners do, but part of it was that they smelled awesome and I was in the weeds and she could see that they would work. She was right.
Thanksgiving 2017: Part II
Then we got to the root vegetables. I needed to make sure we had food for my vegetarian. She requested squash and yams. So I peeled and roasted some butternut squash. Some yams (she does not like sweet potatoes). And an acorn squash, which I love to cook, but rarely do.
I messed up the timing here as well, because while the acorn squash turned out really nice…
…the butternut squash and yams looked horrible to me as well. They looked totally burned!
Holy cats! What is happening with this meal!
I’ll tell you what. I’m not going to post the weird slow-cooker stuffing I tried. Or the vegetarian gravy I totally whiffed on…because those pictures are just too blech. Let’s just say, as those things developed, I thought this holiday…my favorite holiday…was a total fail. Fail. Fail. Fail.
Thanksgiving 2017: Part III
And then the Brussels Sprouts. I love making Brussels Sprouts. But the ones I got were on these ridiculous stalks. They looked like something aliens might use to make pod people. I’m used to just getting them in singles, not like this weird stalk. So I was worried.
Here is where things turned. I know how to cook Brussels Sprouts properly. It’s all from reading one of my favorite books, The Joy of Cooking, and it’s on the top of the stove. So no worries about oven space and timing. Butter and oil and garlic cloves. Take out the cloves when they start to brown just so they’ve scented the oil. Then put the sprouts down and crank to low and let them cook for about twenty minutes. Then make sure they’re browned. Boom. This is how I learned to love sprouts.
They are so good. Not mushy. Just a little crunch. Enough garlic taste. And if you brown them properly…oh my. I love these things. No wonder my dad requests them every time. As these cooked, I started to get my groove back.
This rounded out with might be my favorite thing to cook for Thanksgiving aside from turkey and pie. Alton Brown’s Sweet Cornbread Pudding. I freaking love cooking that, but it takes fifty minutes of oven time, and, as I said above, I totally effed the timing. So squeezing that in…I didn’t think I could do it.
Until I saw my girlfriend’s face when I said I might cross it off the list.
So I did it. And damn it…it’s always fucking perfect. It’s just this great sweet creamed corn batter with cubed french bread and eggs and parmesan that you toss into a cast-iron skillet with onions and fresh rosemary that you’ve sweated and then you bake it all for fifty minutes and damn I could eat it all day every day. So I just did it.
Thanksgiving 2017: Part IV
The cheesecake rocked.
You all know I was so scared about that. Oh. My. God. It rocked. And it only took me four years to get it right.
Here it is just out of the springform pan.
This was a moment of truth. The second of course being slicing it. Which turned out pretty great. You never imagine a kid saying your pie looks like Pac-Man would bring you a feeling of relief and pride, but I’m telling you…it can.
I also made a three-berry pie. As I always do.
This is everybody’s yearly favorite. And I’m stupid not to make two each year, since they get eaten immediately. This one tasted amazing, but was a little loose. That happens. I forgot to add extra cornstarch since I was using frozen berries. But it wasn’t soup (as was the chocolate pie I made…I call it Lake Chocolate) or even close. It was really great. But my brother, in from his work in China, looked at some of the loose filling in the berry pie, looked at his cheesecake, and took a spoon and made a topping. Brilliant. Brilliant!
Anyway, it was a great day, mistakes taken into account. All I care about this year is that the cheesecake worked so well that my dad declared it the best cheesecake he’d ever eaten, and my girlfriend loved it beyond belief.
I’m wondering whether to bother with dinner next time and just go back to making pies for Thanksgiving. And that’s all.
Thank you all for indulging me. And thank you for the encouragement and advice on the cheesecake. I cannot be happier about that.
No cracks in that cheesecake! Beautiful.
Christien, I am amused and saddened that you appear to be guilty of the same kind of thinking I am with my cooking, which is a resolute determination to focus on the negative, the mistakes, and the could-have-beens, even in the midst of some real astounding successes and what sounded like a household full of very happy diners.
I love the look of the pie and the cheesecake both, and it sounds like we share similar schools of thought re: brussels sprouts, so huzzah.
But trust me man, what you did is pretty amazing, and you should be proud and happy and probably a couple of pounds heavier at the end of it all.
Says the guy who still finds time to lament and gnash his teeth over a giant pot of 6-hour-prep-time biryani “ruined” by kinda soggy, under-seasoned rice. That his family ate damn near every bite of.
Look at all that yum! Looks delicious. Well done! Bravo!
Stop hating on yourself, you are an excellent cook.
I remembered this article after seeing those San Marzano tomatoes.