How. How are fish sticks and mac and cheese a Sunday eat? Well. I can’t just have fish sticks and mac and cheese. Okay, fish sticks, sure. Hit the freezer section and move on with life. But mac and cheese? Mac and cheese in any other house should take the 5 minutes required to cook the Velveeta Shells and add the packet of goo. Not in my house. I must make my own Velveeta. Why? BECAUSE I LIKE REAL CHEESE IN MY CHEESE SAUCE.
I don’t like bechamels. I have a great recipe for real mac and cheese that, while fantastic in the moment, is work and is only good for that one day. reheating breaks it. This is not what I want. I want a Velveeta. I want a loaf of cheese that I can cut off and have it melt consistently every time.
10g of Sodium Citrate
1.25g Iota Carrageenan
280g of cheese (sharp cheddar, smoked Gouda, Edam, whatever you like, but REAL CHEESE not preshredded)
75g of wheat beer
Sodium Citrate : a stabilizer and emulsifier. Salty, acidic. does not require much. Iota Carrageenan: Gelling agent usually derived from seaweed. This is what makes the loaf…loaf.
Heat the beer and water in a saucepan. Whisk in the Sodium Citrate and the Iota Carrageenan. Add the cheese and salt. Stir until it’s all good and melty and shiny. If you want it in a loaf, pour into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Otherwise pour into a plastic container. It will set fairly fast. But it’s worth it.
Tips: Use a good cheese. If you like strong cheeses, use them. Use a mix. I like smoked gouda and sharp cheddar. For a milder sauce, Edam and mild cheddar. Make it fancy, make it basic. It’s your cheese!
Now we come to the bacon. There was a time when I was curing my own bacon. Because it was fairly simple and cheap and I could cut thick slices with more meat than fat.
Lookit that bacon. Throw those slices into the oven at 400 or so until they’re cooked. Pull them out let them cool and chop up.
Boil your pasta. I used some freaky spiral elbow macaroni. Whatevers. Add your cooked pasta to your serving bowl, scoop some of that homemade Velveeta (if it’s still warm), maybe a little milk if it’s too thick, then add your bacon. Mix. Serve. Eat.
Not pictured: Fish Sticks. They’re fish sticks. Who cares?
Looks pretty decent right? So how did I make this wonderful bounty you see before you?
You will need:
1 chuck roast about 2-3 pounds (you can use rump, but chuck with a nice bit of fat was the same price per pound)
32 oz of beef stock
1 small-medium onion
a clove or so of garlic
sliced Mozzarella, Havarti, and/or Provolone
How to do it:
At 1pm on a Sunday, decide you want French Dip sandwiches that requires the meat to cook for several hours in a crock pot. Dash to the store and buy ingredients. Then come home. Dump your carton of beef stock into the crock pot and turn it on high. Kinda like a preheat. Slice your onion kinda thin and throw it in the crock. Add a couple of tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (who measures?) and some lovely smoked sea salt.
Turn your attention to your roast. Heat a skillet with some oil and sear that roast. As you sear it, think “hey, I should caramelize these onions a bit” and fish out some onions and throw them next to the roast. After the roast is seared on both sides, toss it into the crock pot. Look at your sad onions. Add some butter and the mushrooms. Sautee them veggies. Toss it all back into the crock pot.
And hour or so later, lament that the liquid is a bit high in the crock. Ladle out a couple of cups into a small saucepan. Boil it. Boil it to death. You want to reduce it a bit (we’re talking like 5 or 10 minutes). Taste it. Is it full of meaty goodness and has a bit of body? GOOD! Dump it back into the crock pot.
Another hour later, reduce some more. Add it back to the crock. Curse yourself for adding the entire 32 ounces of stock. Curse yourself again for forgetting the garlic. Realize you have no actual garlic on hand and make do with a sprinkling of garlic powder.
LEAVE IT ALONE.
Come back after cooking at least 5-6 hours. Take a fork and see if it shreds. Does it shred? THEN IT’S DONE! Toast them rolls. Add your meat. Add some cheese. TOAST THAT SANDWICH! EAT THAT SANDWICH!
What? You want a side? *sigh* Fine. Buy some pre-cut Ore-Ida steak fries. Toss them into the oven on a cookie sheet for 35 minutes at 450 like it says on the bag. Hope you realized you wanted fries BEFORE you declared dinner is done. Take fries out, season to taste, make your plate AND EAT!
What? You want asparagus? *sigh* Gte some fresh asparagus. Trim the lower, woody 2 inches. boil some salted water. Drop asparagus into water for a couple of minutes (2-3 minutes tops). drain, add butter, lime juice, a sprinkling of smoked salt. DONE! EAT YOUR FOOD! ENJOY! Watch the Saints get hammered by the Cowboys (Really? The COWBOYS?)
Sunday. I wanted baked ziti. But all of my previous attempts have been “meh”. It’s okay. It tastes fine the first day. Subsequent days? Not so much. But I found a recipe from The Pioneer Woman that spoke to me. It spoke to me in the language of cheese. Lots of precious, precious cheese. The Pioneer Woman and other food blog people like to show pictures of every step, complete with witty captions. Me? That takes work.
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, Minced (or a couple of teaspoon of jarred minced garlic because you forgot you don’t have any fresh cloves)
1 whole Large Onion, Diced (or some dried, minced onions because you don’t eat onions on a regular basis)
1 pound Italian Sausage
1 pound Ground Beef (or your preferred GROUND MEAT PRODUCT)
1 can (28 Oz. Size) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice (or a can of fire roasted tomatoes you happen to have on hand)
2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Tomato Sauce Or Marinara Sauce (or a jar of marinara that may or may not equal to 29 ounces)
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (uh..I might have some oregano lying around)
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (nope)
Salt And Pepper, to taste
16 ounces, weight Ziti Or Mostaciolli, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
1 tub (15 Oz. Size) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1-1/2 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated (or a couple of preshred bags from the grocery store, plus a container of small cherry sized or smaller mozz balls)
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 whole Egg
Fresh Minced Parsley (ain’t nobody got time fo’ that!)
Preheat the oven at 375.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Or don’t. Because you don’t have any onions or real garlic.
Dump a pound of GROUND MEAT PRODUCT and another pound of GROUND MEAT PRODUCT into the skillet and brown. I say MEAT PRODUCT because I don’t know what you like. I used ground turkey (93% lean) and ground Italian sausage. I would dare say that any GROUND MEAT PRODUCT combined with ground Italian sausage would work. Beef, lamb, goat, bison. Who am I to judge?
Now, you got your GROUND MEAT PRODUCT browning. Remember that you have some dried minced onions in the cabinet. Add some. Then you also remember that you have a jar of minced garlic in the fridge. Add some of that too. Cook it all up. You can drain the fat if there’s a ton of it. But if it’s pretty lean, don’t bother. You want it to have some flavor left.
Add a jar of marinara sauce that probably adds up to the 2 jars The Pioneer Woman used. Add that single 14.5oz can of fire roasted tomatoes you keep on hand because they come in very handy. Look at the meat and sauce in the pan. Realize you didn’t add the same amounts as The Pioneer Woman but it’s okay because your pan wouldn’t have held all that anyway. Let it all simmer as you realize you have other stuff to do.
Set a pot full of salted water to boil. Dump a box of pasta into it. As this is baked ZITI you should use ZITI. I happened to have ZITI. If I didn’t I would have used just about anything I have on hand other than strand pasta. Seriously. I’ve used penne, rigatoni, elbow, whatever you got. DO NOT OVERCOOK IT. You want more than an Al Dente bite. You want to go “hrm, that’s not cooked all the way.” It’ll cook in the oven. Drain, rinse and cool the pasta. Really. Cool it. Run it under cold water, add ice cubes. Because you don’t want to wreck the cheese.
Make your cheese mix. Dump the container of ricotta in a bowl. Mix in an egg. Add a container of fresh mozzarella balls (DRAINED). These should be cherry sized or smaller. Add shredded Parmesean. Add shredded mozzarella. Because why not. Mix it up. The Pioneer Woman says not to mix it too well so that you still have clumps of ricotta. I say, that’s why you have mozz balls in there. In the end, it won’t matter. All that matters is that there is cheese.
Take about 4 cups of the sauce and let it cool. Mix that in with the cheese. Add the cheese-sauce mixture to your cooled pasta. Mix it just enough to get it kinda incorporated.
Now. Put half the pasta mix to your baking dish. Pour half the sauce over it. Add half the leftover (leftover. HAH!) shredded cheese over the sauce. Add the remaining pasta mix, then the sauce, then top with even more shredded cheese.
Bake it for 20 minutes at 375. Let it sit for FIVE MINUTE before you dig into it. Seriously!
Eat! Die in a happy cheesy bliss!
Things I would do different:
Use a bigger pot for the meat sauce. Definitely. So that I can use the right amount of sauce and tomatoes.
You read that right. Pork belly banh mi. I first had a banh mi taco at the Peached Torilla taco truck. Holy crap. So succulent, so moist, so so good. I have to get it every time I go. So that got me thinking: how can I make this at home?
Me and Google? Tight, yo. Even after they changed how you search. I found this recipe from White On Rice Couple. They do a lot of food photography and have plenty of delicious recipes. Now that I have the recipe, how do I get a damn pork belly? Many searches for “pork belly austin” got me such responses as “You have to buy an entire one and talk to a butcher.” and “good luck, I had to order mine online.” Well, crap. Then a random post on facebook (ugh) lead me to The Meat House.
The Meat House has all kinds of meat, fresh and frozen (elk? yup. lamb? yup. ostrich? you betcha). And in one of the freezers was a nice one pound pork belly slab. Oh my yes. I picked out a $10 slab and it sat in my freezer for weeks. Finally, I decided to dig out this recipe and give it a try.
Braised Caramel Pork Belly Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe
1/2 pound Carrots
1/2 pound Daikon
4 tablespoons Vinegar (white or rice wine)
3 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Salt
4 cups Warm Water
Cut a carrot and a daikon radish into thin strips, kind of like match sticks. Mix salt, sugar, water, vinegar until everything is dissolved.
Put the sliced (julienned!) veggies into a sterile jar and pour the liquid on top.
Let sit for 3 days or as long as you can stand. I let mine sit for as long as it took for the pork belly to cook. With strips this thin, they should be “acceptable” pickles in a short time. Obviously the longer they sit, the better they are.
Note: There was no way I was going to julienne a pound of carrot and daikon for a couple of sandwiches. I cut at most half a cup total, then eyeballed the brine.They turned out fine. I was looking for a pickle taste and a crunch. I got it. Hooray for winging it!
3 Tbs sugar (edit: I used 2 Tbs or sugar and a tablespoon of local honey)
2 Tbs warm water
Add sugar and water to heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook on medium heat until it turns a golden brown.
DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED. It will go from nice golden brown syrup to horrible burned sugar in a split second. As soon as the mixture turns to a medium golden brown, immediately remove pan from heat.
If the mixture is still too thick (remember, you’re not making candy, you’re making a syrup), SLOWLY and CAREFULLY add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes more watery consistency. Adding water will make it bubble and splatter. That crap hurts. Quickly mix with a wooden spoon so that there are no hard lumps. When finished, set aside. When I was ready to add the caramel sauce, I had semi soft candy. Sigh. If this happens to you, add a little water and heat until all is melted again.
Now on to the meat!
2 lbs cubed pork belly (about 1 inch cubes)
2 large shallots, minced (about 3-4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoons oil or butter. I like butter.
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
about 1 or 1.5 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Melt butter/heat oil in a medium to large saucepan or large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for about a minute. Add garlic and cook until both are fragrant and translucent.
Add the precious, precious pork belly. Cook for 10 minutes or until all edges are seared and browned. At this point, it should smell AWESOME.
Add fish sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point, it should go from AWESOME to OH MY DEAR GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL??? That’s the fish sauce. Which is salt, water and anchovy. Yup. Cost? About a buck thirty-nine at the local Asian market for a 24 ounce bottle. Now it is possible that I got some horrible brand (they had a bottle for $8. Sorry, but $1.39 beats $8). But they all had the same ingredients. Anyway….
Add enough water to cover the belly. Add peppercorns and cook on low for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add caramel sauce and continue cooking on low (this is called braising!) for 45 minutes to an hour. Open doors and windows to get that garlic fish sauce smell out. Stir occasionally.
How to put your sandwiches together:
Baguette (Vietnamese if you can get it, regular french if you can’t. I was told that in a pinch a Mexican bolillo roll or ciabatta roll will work)
Pork liver pate
Slice the roll/baguette lengthwise and add your fixins. I added some avocado because I had one about to go bad. This…oh this tasted so good.
Things I learned:
My belly was too fat (pork belly!). Need to find one with more meat. Guess where I can find that? The Asian market. As I was looking for fish sauce, I wandered around the meat section. They had pre-sliced belly that was much more lean. It’s possible they had a slab as well, but I didn’t look. I really like the cubed style. But if I can get more meat for my money, then I’m all there.
Fish sauce can be cheap.
Fish sauce frigging stinks.
In short, I loved it. Aelerelean was not as enthused. Too much fat and he can’t eat organ meat so pate is right out. I would totally make it again with leaner belly.
A friend of mine has a peach tree. She brought the most delicious white flesh peaches I have had in a while to a party. My mom ended up taking them. I still don’t know how that happened. Anyway, my friend promised me another bag. And she came through:
This is what I had left. Oh what do I mean? I had to be sure they were still tasty. I ate two immediately. So juicy.
As much as I loved them, I could not eat them all before they went bad. So…JAM IT IS! But not my full scale, 6 dozen jar production. Nope. I bought a bread maker (and then discovered the joys of mixer and no knead bread. Go figure) and it can make jam. In fact, I think most can. Anyway. A cup or so of fresh peach jam coming up!
First, I must skin the peaches. How do you do this the quick way? Boil some water:
drop peaches in for a minute:
dunk in ice water:
skin peels right off!
That is a horrible lie. My mom’s peels came right off. My peels did not come right off. “Cut an X on the bottom!” Did that. no love. I boiled them for 60 seconds. I boiled them for almost 2 minutes. Nothing. You know what did it? A paring knife.
Instructions from the manual: <none> There were no instructions for peaches. For hard fruit like apples:
“Cut into small pieces, cook with water until soft, mash. Add 1 cup of prepared fruit to pan with one cup of sugar.”
I did not want sweet cooked peaches. I wanted jam. Well, preserves.
“Cut into smallish pieces, eat multiple lovely juicy chunks that didn’t get cooked mushy by the failed peeling process, add 1 cup of whatever is left to the bread pan, realize you have a bit more than a cup, add the rest, add 1 cup of sugar, and a bit of pectin because I want a harder set.”
Instructions from the manual: Put pan in the breadmaker, press the jam button. Come back in 1 hour 20 minutes to jam! Let cool. Place in clean container. Cover and refrigerate.
Reality: Put pan in breadmaker, press jam button, come back in 1 hour 20 minutes to find sweet peach flavored syrup with bits in. Press jam button again. Wonder why the machine just beeps at you. Realize it has to cool down. Come back 5 minutes later, press jam button, machine still beeps at you. Come back in an hour because, really, it’s time for dinner. I don;t need jam RIGHT NOW. Press jam button. Machine complies. Come back in 1 hour 20 minutes to find mostly thickened jam with peach bits in and burned sugar at the top. Rejoice! Spoon into clean container, cover and place in fridge. Lick spoon. Go to bed happy.”
A “real” shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, not beef. Hence the name “shepherd’s pie.” Whatever. Sunday, I ventured forth to get some ground lamb. Because I did not think ahead to go to the farmer’s market the say before. Grump. Now I gotta go to Central Market. Ugh. I didn’t wanna go all the way to Central Market. Sprout’s! They should have ground lamb!
No problem! I have a big ass Kitchen Aid mixer and a meat grinding attachment! Now that I had transformed the lovely lamb shoulder chops into a mass of pink squidginess, I could then get to cooking! What does the recipe say? “Add onions and carrots and saute.” Why would I saute carrots? I did however, saute onions and–oh look!–5 medium sized mushrooms that need eating! Then I dumped in my lovely pink critter meat and browned it.
Next, “add flour, cook for one minute, add tomato paste–” Tomato paste? Sure, why the hell not! And hey, while I’m at it, I’ve got some cherry tomatoes from my garden, let’s slice and toss those in as well! They’ll cook down (no they won’t)! Simmer for a bit, add your additional veg (no corn here. it just looks wrong) and add to a casserole dish.
So, I’ve never made a proper shepherd’s (or cottage) pie. I’ve always browned some meat, added gravy from a packet, dumped in some frozen veg and topped with mashed potatoes either from instant or from the refrigerated section. There was none of this “make a gravy” or “simmer” stuff. This time, however, I whipped some red potatoes (russets suck) and added it to the top (yes, I still used frozen veg. Alton said I could!).
Now, I have no idea why the recipe calls for an egg yolk, but I put it in. Next time I won’t. Bake this puppy for 25 minutes and dinner is served.
Right. Bread. I found a no knead bread that only called for 2 hour sitting time instead of 12. Welp. This is bread. There’s nothing good or bad to say about it. It was flour, water, yeast, and salt. No milk (it would go bad), no oil/butter (why?), no sugar (guess the yeasties would eat it too fast?), and no character. It’s fine for dinner but not a sandwich bread. Of course, I think I did screw it up. It was supposed to be sturdy like a bread dough. I was goopy. “Using a serrated knife, cut off a piece of dough.” No. It was more like “Get a spoon.” Now I know how to fix it for next time.
18 ounces stale challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-inch pieces
Modification 1: No hot cocoa mix Modification 2: No espresso Modification 3: No chocolate chunks
So here you’re asking “Then why are you using the chocolate bread pudding recipe if there’s no bloody chocolate in it?” Because his other recipe is not what I was looking for. Trust me. It works
Modification 4 aka Here’s your damn chocolate: I had a chocolate babka sitting in the freezer for over a year. The plan was to make bread pudding out of it. It just took longer than I thought. I have no idea how much bread I used. I just cubed it up and put it in a pan. A bundt pan.
Modification 5: Some rum. “how much is ‘some rum’?” No clue. Less than a half cup, more than a tablespoon. I like rum.
I followed the recipe with my mods. I have made this before using a homemade cinnamon bread that had very little salt but was perfect for this. So this time I knew I could kinda wing it. Last time I had too much for my pan. This time, though, this time I was determined to have things turn out differently!
That’s a lot of bread pudding. No one else will eat it. Just me. I made a nice bourbon sauce for it as well. I’d post the recipe but I have no idea what I used. Sugar, butter, flour, bourbon, milk all cooked for a bit. It turned out lovely. Really. Just…a lot. I gotta learn how to cook smaller portions.
So I lied. Weekly? That was apparently too much work. And so are pictures. Sorry.
Anyway, May 19th eats: salmon filets (HEB), couscous made with beef broth and a dash of Ms. Dash (bulk, HEB), yellow waxy and green beans (Greenling.com), and *drumroll* English Toasting Bread.
Salmon: a squirt of lime juice, a teaspoon of Lia Marie’s garlic butter, light sprinkling of salt. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Perfect. Moist. Awesome.Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.
Couscous: boil a cup and a half of broth or water, add one cup of couscous, put a lid on it, turn off the heat, and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Done. Don’t but the pre-boxed, pre-flavored stuff. It’s not worth it. Buy it in bulk. Easiest side dish you’ve ever made.
Fresh green and yellow waxy beans: bring a couple of quarts of water to boil. Add beans (you did remember to rinse and trim the bad bits, yes?). Cook for 3 minutes. Green beans will turn a beautiful bright green. THIS IS GOOD. turn off heat, drain, immediately chill in ice water to stop the cooking and drain. Gotta preserve that color. Right before serving, melt a bit of butter in a pan and toss the beans until heated through. Nice buttery coating.
English Toasting Bread: I love this bread. I get it from HEB or Central Market (depending on where I am). My HEB does not stock it regularly and Central Market has one of the worst freaking parking lots ever. So I decided to see if I can make this lovely bread on my own. I can.King Arthur Flour has a pretty nice recipe. I might need to cut the salt a bit. There’s not a lot of salt but it still felt too salty for me. I think I could tweak it a bit.
1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.
2) Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Be sure to stir the liquid well before measuring its temperature; you want an accurate reading. If you don’t have a thermometer, the liquid will feel quite hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable as bath water.
3) Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
4) Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.
5) Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.
6) Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.
7) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it’s just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn’t be more than, say, 1/4″ over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn’t very cold (edit: and if your flour didn’t come straight from the freezer. Like mine. Mental note: warm the flour or let it sit at room temp before using). While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
8 ) Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it’s golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
9) Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.
I don’t know what it is about Sundays, but I feel the need to cook all the things and clean some of the things. It is the day that I can finally get things done without distractions. I can clean, I can repair, and most importantly cook stuff. I’m hoping I can make this a weekly thing. Something to make me starting updating this thing. Next time I’ll remember to take pictures.
Last Sunday (4/22) I made a roast chicken for dinner. Roast chicken (Central Market), purple hull peas (Texas Daily Harvest delivered by Greenling.com), and fresh broccoli (Central Market). Broccoli is no big thing, neither are the peas. The chicken….ahh the chicken. I am wary of chicken now. I failed to cook one all the way through and made both Aelerelean and me sick. I am now 3 for 4 in successful roast chicken. I usually rub it down with copious amounts of butter and generous amounts of kosher salt. That’s all it needed. This chicken, however, got the special treatment. I have in my possession the most glorious of congealed substances: duck fat.Oh my my, oh hell yes. I rubbed–nay massaged– that 4 pound chicken with softened butter and sweet sweet duck fat. no crevice was missed, nor was the cavity neglected. Let me tell you folks, that this was one damn tasty bird once done. My oven on the other hand….well, I forgot. Duck fat likes to pop. A lot. Oh well. Juicy, tasty bird. Would eat again. A++++++.
That was dinner. A 4 pound bird only takes about 1.5 hours to cook at 400 (internal temp 165!). What did I do earlier in the day? Made cinnamon rolls. No idea why I wanted cinnamon rolls. I just did. They turned out pretty good. Lots of time spent waiting for the dough to rise. Peh. That’s the only part I don’t like about baking bready things. The waiting. It is indeed the hardest part. I did learn one thing though. My couple of years old instant yeast is still alive. Gotta love a nice frosty freezer.