Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Turkey lurking

November 20, 2020

From Thanksgiving 2015: Emeril’s chicken cacciatore and a side of Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash with edamame.

A week until Thanksgiving. Two months until Inauguration Day.

Guess which one I’m looking forward to?

When I was still marginally employed in the newspaper bidness I didn’t pay a lot of attention to holidays, other than in a professional sense, which meant grinding out the usual heart-warmers and eye-rollers, plugging the holes around the ads until stupid-thirty, when I could return to my true occupation, which was drinking.

Thanksgiving was just another day in the workweek for a single fella whose family was as far away as he could keep them. The O’Gradys’ holiday gatherings were not the sort that gets written up in the newspaper; not outside of the police blotter, anyway.

Think George Carlin in “40 Years of Comedy” discussing “family style” dining:

“You know what that means? It means there’s an argument going on at every table, two people are crying, and the eldest male is punching the women.”

This may be why you will rarely find me cooking turkey for Thanksgiving. Call it shell shock. One whiff of giblet gravy and I hit the deck with my eyes out on stalks and a knife in my hand.

“Micks in the wire!”

I’ve made all manner of off-brand meals for Thanksgiving, from northern New Mexican combo platters to Emeril’s take on chicken cacciatore. Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash often plays a supporting role. But we haven’t done the actual turkey thing since 2012.

This year … frankly, I have no earthly idea. I did a speed run through the grocery early yesterday to beat the rush and hope not to go back anytime soon, so I’m limited to whatever’s already on hand.

The lead-up to the actual holiday may beat the holiday itself, feastwise. I have chicken thighs for posole, turkey thighs for tacos, the makings of a decent pizza sauce and/or a spicy pasta sauce, flour tortillas, bread flour and yeast, plus salmon filets and a couple pounds of ground turkey in the freezer. So “turkey day” may center on turkey burritos smothered in green with a side of arroz verde.

Maybe I’ll cook an actual turkey with all the trimmings when we finally run that overstuffed poltroon out of the White House. This bird’s for you, Adolf.

Seeing red

November 15, 2020

Turkey enchiladas in red chile after somebody’s been at ’em.

Even though we’ve mostly been steering clear of restaurants since March because, well, y’know, PLAGUE, an’ stuff, we eat quite a bit of Mexican food.

It’s not pro Mexican food, mind you. Category 3 at best. I missed my start time and will never catch the likes of Lucy Martinez, the enchilada-slinging mother of my old hermanos Larry and Jim.

Lucy could whip up a few platillos de comida mexicana in less time than it takes me to remember where I left my spatula. And while holding up her end of a rambling chat with a kitchen full of stuporous pendejos fresh from an long night of questionable behavior, too.

I may be slow, but I do get there, eventually. My green chile sauce is serviceable (as far as Irish green goes, anyway), but my red sauce is still hit and miss. The recipe I’ve been most successful with is this one, from the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

Last night I had a bunch of filling that didn’t get used in the previous evening’s turkey tacos, but I didn’t feel like a second round of tacos. So, boom, enchiladas it was.

I started with a 50-50 mix of Hatch chile powders (hot and mild), and recalling that I undersimmered my last batch of sauce, leaving it a little thin, I oversimmered it this time and had to add a little water to loosen it up a tad. Live and learn, they say. Riiiiiiight.

After the foil-covered Pyrex spent 20 minutes in the oven at 350° I topped the enchiladas with grated Kellygold Skellig, and gave ’em a few minutes under the broiler. Yum, yum, gimme some. Sides included potatoes roasted in red chile (another Santa Fe School of Cooking recipe) and a green salad.

The best part? Leftovers.

Poachers

November 10, 2020

Continuing with our food theme, we consider the tale of three hungry fellas who got busted for boiling a pair of chickens in one of the geothermal features at Yellowstone National Park.

What, there wasn’t a Chik-fil-A in that neck of the peckerwoods? The National Park Service must be too busy kowtowing to the e-bike lobby to take care of important business. When Bubba has to boil his own birds at a campout, goddamnit all to hell anyway, the terrorists win.

Anyway, it proved a pricey meal. According to The Guardian, the three were banned from the park and received fines ranging from $540 to $1,250, plus probation.

And two did a short stretch in the stony lonesome, where the dining is anything but al fresco and the menu less inventive.

Toast

November 9, 2020

The only things missing are the man-bun and the ironic facial hair.

No, not him. I’m talking about the famous Hipster Avocado Toast a la Señor Dog of Albuquerque.

The other day I bought a six-pack of avocados to chop into a rough salsa for a batch of chipotle-honey chicken tacos. This proved to be about four too many, so there you have it. The bread is a robust whole-wheat number from the Toastmaster Bread Box recipe booklet.

It seems a good day to crouch behind the parapets, nibbling tasty bits and dodging dispatches from the Bananas Republic. This just in: GOP sticks fingers in ears and goes “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA,” how the Donks will fuck this up, everybody hates everybody else, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the 24/7 news cycle. Happily, we still have a couple avocados left.

Toast, master

October 25, 2020

A one-pound mini-loaf from our new-used Toastmaster Bread Box.

We missed the Big Breadmaking Boom of the Apocalypse.

By the time we thought, “Hmm, might be nice to start making our own bread,” all the ingredients had become as rare as plague-free toadies among Adolf Twitler’s Brown Noses.

Anyway, I am not a baker. Too much math, too hands-on, too much finicky attention required by too many niggling little details, especially at altitude. It’s classical, and while I appreciate the art form, I’m more of a jazz kind of guy, prone to improbable improvisations. Faced with a binary choice — right way vs. wrong way — I’ll say, “No way,” and walk away.

Herself makes the occasional pan of cornbread, but it’s tough to stuff a wedge of cornbread in the toaster.

The device at work.

We had an automatic breadmaker once, a gift from my sister. It was a Toastmaster Bread Box and cranked out serviceable loaves of whole-wheat goodness when we lived up near Weirdcliffe and acquiring proper groceries involved a 110-mile road trip at minimum.

Once we moved back to what passed for civilization the breadmaker went away in some unremarkable fashion, there being a Whole Paycheck, a Wild Oats, and other fine establishments doing the baking so we didn’t have to, even with machinery. You could get a loaf from the hippies at Mountain Mama that made you feel like a beaver gnawing a tree.

But here in the Year of Living Antiseptically our favorite English muffins abruptly vanished without warning, not unlike democracy, science, and common sense. And as I noted earlier, by the time we started weighing our options there were none, and nothing to weigh them with, either.

Herself made a few pans of cornbread, which was fine, unless we wanted toast. Locally made tortillas we have aplenty. But goddamnit all anyway, sometimes a fella just wants a slice of something toasted with butter and jam while he enjoys his morning coffee and tsk-tsks at the news.

I priced modern breadmakers and after recovering from the coronary remembered that there was no yeast to be had anyway.

Something is coming to call, and I don’t think it’s bringing bread.

And then, a miracle occurred.

After an unauthorized stop at a neighborhood garage sale Herself came home bearing — wait for it — a Toastmaster Bread Box.

A lightly used Model 1172X, it looks exactly like our old one save for the kneading blade, which seems larger.

The cost: $20. Even a senior citizen on a fixed income can bear that fiscal burden.

With yeast suddenly available again, we were in the breadmaking bidness. The inaugural loaf was kind of meh due to a poor choice of recipes (molasses, barf). But the next two, plucked straight from the owner’s manual, were perfect.

Now it’s all toasty around here in the morning. And just in time, too. Winter is coming.

Cast off, matey

September 20, 2020

The New Albion Privateer, in matte black.

There’s a new ship in the harbor: a New Albion Privateer.

The temptation is to load it down, saddle up, and sail away. But to where?

Lacking a passport, I’m restricted to the lower 48 states, Alaska and Hawaii being something of a long bunny-hop by bike. I don’t think Hans Rey could make either in one go, even if he started with a bean feast, a lit fart, and a tailwind.

Unfortunately, several of my preferred bolt holes are either hot as blazes or actually on fire. And if I leave New Mexico, I face a 14-day quarantine when I return.

Plus, Herself would have to rassle up her own grub in my absence, in addition to working for our living, catering to Miss Mia Sopaipilla, and assisting the assisted-living place with Herself the Elder, who recently took another digger, this time breaking her right wrist.

HtE is issued a fresh 14-day quarantine every time she leaves assisted living to see a sawbones, which is not nearly as much fun as seeing the road unfold before you from the saddle of a brand-new bicycle.

This is a review bike, of course. Merry Sales provided frame, fork, and a big box of bits, but the Great Parts Shortage of 2020 being more or less ongoing, I had to contribute a few items from my personal collection, among them a wheelset, inner tubes, saddle, and brakes.

Between us it made for a pretty tasty build, and I can’t say much more than that until the paying customers get theirs. In the meantime, I’m getting mine.

Still sticking pretty close to home, though. I’m not getting too far away from the mailbox until our ballots show up. That’s a review I can’t wait to write.

Just another manic Monday

July 20, 2020

Anybody else feel like their rhythm is a little off? Like you’re dancing with one foot in a bucket?

Makes it hard to shake your moneymaker, that’s for sure.

Today we had a routine AC/furnace check on The List, and in Plague Time these things are scheduled in a window rather than on the dot. Ours was from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is a really big dot. Basically a picture window.

I took five at the Piedra Lisa parking lot to snap a quick pic while letting a fleet-footed woman blast past.

I didn’t like the view, but there it was. I usually do a medium-long hike on Mondays, but we both overslept and by the time the morning chores got done I had about 45 minutes to work with if the dude was closer to 10 than 2. Herself had the usual conga line of nightmares moonwalking through her office and I didn’t want to slip another foot-dragging zombie into the mix.

So, boom, I’m out, I’m back. Zip and zip and zip. So pro. No word from the dude. So I figure I’ll do a little light resistance training just ’cause. The phone rings halfway through, a number I don’t recognize, but I pick up on the off chance it’s the dude, which of course it is. He’s five minutes away and on the move.

Anyway, we passed the checkup. The heat heats and the cool cools. I managed a third of a hike and half of a weights session. Herself made bank. What’s not to like?

Speaking of which, here are two new recipes worth a look:

A simple no-cook pizza sauce from Kitchn. Herself likes these corn-meal pizza crusts from Vicolo and with two of those, this sauce, some mozzarella, a little leftover turkey-taco meat, and a handful of chopped black olives and mushrooms, we had two nights of dinner dialed in.

Turmeric and black-pepper chicken with asparagus, from Ali Slagle at The New York Times. This was really good. Simple and quick and versatile and really, really good. It goes into the rotation. But “serves four” me bollocks. The only reason we didn’t eat it all at one sitting was that we wanted some leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

The bad news: Our local Penzey’s Spices shop is closed. And that ominous oinking you’ve been hearing from Portland? It may be coming soon to a town near you.

The fab four

April 4, 2020

Sick of oatmeal? Four Pepper Hash makes a nice change of pace.

Today being 4/4, it seemed a propitious morning to whip up my world-famous Four Pepper Hash.

Also, I was sick unto death of oatmeal.

Anyway, this dish is a breeze, loosely based on a 1993 Betty Crocker (!) recipe from the early days of marriage and underpaid freelancing.

You start with a couple cups of coarsely chopped spuds (I favor the reds; go figure). Microwave those commie taters for five minutes to speed the process along.

While the taters are nuking, coarsely chop about a cup of whatever peppers you have on hand. For this one I used red, yellow, and orange bells, plus a jalapeño.

Likewise take the knife to a couple scallions (or a quarter cup of whatever onion is nearby); a couple tablespoons of parsley and/or cilantro; a clove or two of garlic; and mebbe a bit of already-cooked meat (I had a chunk of andouille sausage left over from a jambalaya I made a couple days back).

For spices I’ve gone as basic as salt and pepper, especially if I’m not adding meat or if there are sissies at the table. A bit of thyme is nice too.

Depending upon what protein I’m using I’ve been known to add a generous pinch of Mexican oregano and some smoked Spanish paprika or red chile powder, or p’raps a dash of Penzey’s Cajun spice.

When you’ve got everything ready to go, heat two tablespoons of butter (or the alternative fat of your choice) in a skillet over medium heat and dump the lot in. Fry, stirring occasionally, for eight minutes or so until the spuds are nicely browned and the vegetables tender.

Fill your plates, grate a little sharp Cheddar and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, and th’ow an egg over medium onto the sumbitch. Warmed flour tortillas on the side. That’s it.

Let’s eat!

April 1, 2020

We should be good for a couple more weeks now.

My first grocery trip in more than two weeks was blessedly uneventful.

The parking lots were sparsely populated. A few customers were masked and gloved. And all of us were doing the Alphonse-Gaston routine in the aisles.

“After you, Alfonse.”

“No, you first, my dear Gaston!”

I was surprised to be able to find everything on my list, and doubly so to find everyone bearing up so well. A tip of the Mad Dog chef’s toque to the staffs of Keller’s Farm Stores and Sprouts Farmers Market for keeping the shelves stocked, the checkouts running, and their chins up in trying times.

Beaned

March 28, 2020

The ornamental pear is blooming … just in time for the morning low
to dip below freezing again.

We’re not down to eating the backyard foliage like Spike the Terrorist Deer. Not yet, anyway.

But it has been about 10 days since our last grocery trip, and we’re having to get creative.

Last night I was scrounging around in the pantry like an old bear fresh from hibernation and thought: “Hmm. Must be something I can do with canned beans other than make emergency burritos.” This is the kind of burrito you make when you don’t feel like going through all the rigamarole involved in making a proper pot of frijoles.

Which I was not. It was my birthday, f’chrissakes.

So I hit The New York Times Cooking site. This is well worth the price of a subscription to The Old Grey Lady. It’s not geared strictly for the condo chef with an eight-burner Wolf gas range and All-Clad out the arse. You’ll find plenty of pantry possibilities too.

And whaddaya know? I unearthed one perfectly suited to my supplies: Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake.

I made a few adjustments. Didn’t have any mozzarella, so I used Monterey Jack. Also, I tossed a generous dollop of cilantro-jalapeño salsa in with the tomato paste, and added a pinch of smoked paprika to the spices.

And when it came out of the oven I sprinkled it with some coarsely chopped cilantro and a bit of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Herself contributed a side salad and that was that.

Ali Slagle, who provided the recipe, also offers a snazzier black-bean version. We may try that one down the road. We’re flat out of Jack now, but we still have some sharp Irish Cheddar.