one man's ceiling
Monday, October 30, 2006
  apple chutney-esque
i hated pork chops growing up. i loved pork chops growing up.

i hated that they always seemed too thin, too tough and chewy. actually, most meats in our house growing up were prepared under the broiler until tough and chewy. it wasn't until i was an adult that i actually learned that not all red meat is blackened on the outside and grey-brown on the inside.

but i loved the flavor on pork chops, the gamey-brininess of the meat. i also loved gnawing on the bones, picking them clean, though this turned out to be more a function of starvation as i have since grown tired of having to do that much work.

boneless center cut chops, neatly trimmed, that's my preference now. and instead of broiling them to within a fraction of charred combustion i like to massage them with olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper, pan sear them on each side and then let them slowly cook out in the oven until plump and just losing their pink.

and i like them served with something on top. carmelized onions, mushroom gravy or, best, some kind of fruit.

a few nights ago i was hankering for an apple chutney atop the chops, but i wasn't really interested in doing a complete job of it. yes, the laziness factor. after thumbing through a couple recipes i finally decided on the following ingredients and method for an apple-onion quasi-compote.

apple chutney (sorta)
in a bowl blend the sugars and spices.
heat to medium-high a large frying pan with the butter until it starts to bubble.
toss in the apples and cook to soften a bit, about 2 or 3 minutes.
add the onions and garlic and cook another couple of minutes.
sprinkle in the sugar-spice mix and stir to coat.
when things start getting a little sticky add the apple cider, scraping up any fond that may have built up on the bottom of the pan.
when the liquid begins to bubble turn heat down to medium-low and add the vinegar.
simmer until liquid is reduced to a nice syrup and apples are soft but not too mushy. if the liquid thickens before the apples are cooked add a little water or apple cider.

keep on low until serving, then spoon generously over chops.

if everything is prepped you can do this in the time it takes to oven roast some pork chops and make a side dish of some kind. we like spinach.

kids did not like the chutney. sillies.
survived reheating in the microwave a couple days later.
probably could have survived my initial instinct to add curry powder to the mix.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
  shepherd's pie & the end of daylight savings time
my girls love the shepherd's pie. i think it comes down to the simple fact that it's a meal smothered in mashed potatoes. honestly, how can you not like that?

the deal with shepherd's pie is this. well, it's two deals actually. the first deal is that the girls love it so much that they see no problem in eating it once a week. for a good year it was the most requested meal until we had to put a moratorium on it, which is part of the first deal. zuska and i thought it over for about two seconds and arbitrarily decided that shepherd's pie was best suited for colder weather and thus relegated to being made in the fall and winter, roughly, between daylight standard and daylight savings time.

the second deal is that shepherd's pie is something of an ordeal. this really shouldn't be, it's supposed to be a clever way to take leftover meat, vegetables and potatoes and whip up a second life out of it. to do this one must consume a traditional euro meat-and-two-veg (with potatoes being one of the two) and to have enough in leftovers to stretch to another day. we just aren't those people. we could be those people without a second thought, but it's that second thought that pushes us to try new foods, new combinations, often with spices or rubs sauces that preclude conversion into shepherd's pie.

which means i have to make it from scratch every time, which is the second deal.

i have made it with leftovers -- most notably following thanksgiving where turkey and stuffing join the potatoes and veggies -- and when i have the difference is remarkable. it's the twice-cooked aspect that brings out the melded flavors from the original. like the way a chili tastes better if it can sit a day before serving; you can eat them both fresh but that zweibacken really makes them zing.

all that makes it sound like i hate shepherd's pie, or that i find making it a chore. hardly! i enjoy the challenge of making it slightly different but the same each time. like tonight, for instance.

a few nights ago zuska and i had a kidless night where we were able to have dinner out at a local pub. i shied away from my normal burger and had a meatloaf with a beer gravy over mashed potatoes. sweet and creamy, i thought, but missing something if they were to be used for a shepherd's pie. my zuska landed a dome of grilled-fried-roasted little red potatoes that i couldn't stop stealing from her plate. and that's when it hit me: why couldn't they both be in a shepherd's pie?


one potato, two potato, shepherd's pie

there's lots of wiggle room in this to make to your taste. follow you gut as you go.
chop a pound and a half of the red potatoes into 3/4 inch cubes. place the potatoes in a plastic bag with the garlic, olive oil, kosher salt, parsley and tarragon, hold the bag closed and give it a good couple of shakes to coat.
place the cubed potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment and into a 375 degree oven to roast. give it 20 to 40 minutes until they're golden and yummy.

while that's going down take the remaining potatoes and boil them up for mashed potatoes. everyone really ought to follow their own family recipe for mashed potatoes, but in this recipe it's simply a case of adding the butter and enough half & half to make them the right consistency. a little salt and pepper, maybe some parsley. nice.

meanwhile, you're cooking the ground meat with the onion. you can spice this up any way you prefer. if you're using ground turkey you might try some sage and butter for flavor. if chicken, why not try a little curry powder? me? i like to use an organic, chemical-free gravy mix, or an onion mix, dumped into the cooked meat with a little water to process. failing that, i just start adding spices until i like it.

construction time. the amounts above make a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, or two square 9 by 9 dishes, which is handy because it can be frozen and brought out a week later when it's dark and gloomy out and you don't want to work at a meal but -- hey! -- i got that extra shepherd pie in the freezer! drop a layer of meat in the bottom of the baking dish, sprinkle on a layer of the frozen veggies, sprinkle the roasted potatoes on top of the veggies, plop some mashed potatoes on the whole thing.

toss it in the oven for about 40 minutes. if the sides are bubbling over but the tops aren't toasted then set the oven to broil for a few minutes until golden and call it a night.

in our house gravy is mandatory. i used to pout it over the veggies before dropping the potatoes on top but everyone complained so i make it separate now. again, this comes down to personal tastes. like that brown gravy in a package? go for it. want to make it from scratch? be my guest.

note on meat:
i've done practically every ground meat, and ground meat combination, in shepherd's pie but beef always seems to get the best response from my carnivore girls. i have made shepherd's pie with chopped up bits of roasts and the aforementioned turkey and i have to admit i prefer them. it wouldn't take much to use a nice cut of beef and chop it up specifically for the purpose, but then it seems too much like a crustless pot pie. by all means, use what you like.

makes enough to feed a small hungry army.
will freeze (if well sealed) for up to a week and still taste like you made it the same day.
kid tested and approved.
90 minutes start to finish -- and you can read your email and coast the web between steps
Thursday, October 26, 2006
  the nearest book
absolutely nothing to do with food (because those books are in another room), i came across this at mental multivitamin...

1. grab the nearest book.
2. open to page 123.
3. find the fifth sentence.
4. post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. don't you dare dig around for that "cool" or "intellectual" book on your shelves. (i know you were thinking about it.) just pick up whatever is closest.

here is my contribution:

But I still find myself daydreaming of an isolated little gang of like-minded people in a temperate climate, in a clearing in a woodland near a lake (an ideal spot, by the way, for a daydreaming maiden to find herself the captrix of a unicorn). My son Mark would help found and bankroll such a commune in British Columbia, and later write about it in The Eden Express. (I said in my own Palm Sunday that sons try to make their mothers' impractical dreams for themselves come true. Here was a case of a son making his father's impractical dream come true.)
way too many hints in there, but if you're interested, it came from this.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
  tuna noodle times 2: deluxe and easy-cheesy
there's a battle raging in our house, a quiet battle requiring elaborate diplomacy. it's all about pasta. my zuska doesn't hate pasta but the carbs just don't agree with her and she feels we can live healthier lives without the added starches. the girls are young and don't have the same issues; noodles are fun, and safe, and pretty much anything that comes with pasta is fine with them.

for me, i had a summer in college where i was once so poor it was all i ate. seriously. i would buy a pound of pasta on monday, open the package, and count out five servings strand-by-strand for my daily meal (weekends i'd splurge and have eggs with toast). each serving was tossed with a single tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper and, if i had any, canned parm cheese. you would think i would hate pasta for that reason, the way some people won't eat the "poor" foods they had growing up after they fell into some money. nope, still love it and could eat it three or four times a week if necessary. if i didn't know better.

a couple nights ago a tuna noodle casserole dinner was proposed and agreed by all, however zuska's caveat was that there needed to be more vegetables involved, somehow, because it tends to be more about the noodles and tuna than anything else when i make it. agreed then, deluxe vegetable tuna noodle casserole.

growing up in the glory days of post-war convenience foods, my mom's version of tuna noodle came straight off the can of campbell's cream of mushroom soup. tuna, condensed soup, frozen peas, noodles, tossed together and bakes with a crust (i kid you not) of crushed potato chip dust on top. my heart is racing from the mere thought of all that sodium. we ate it, it tasted okay, i had no idea that tuna noodle was supposed to taste like anything else.

a few years back i realized i hadn't really explored the possibilities of the classic tuna noodle and played around with the kinds of things i was interested in. after a couple of laborious recipes from various sources i took a look at the things i liked and developed the following.

easy-cheesy tuna noodle casserole cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. turn off burner, drain and rinse.
in the still-warm pasta pot dump the sour cream, allowing some to remain in the container. place the pot back on the warm burner and add the tuna, peas and corn, stirring until mixed.
in the sour cream container add the soy sauce, paprika, flour and half the parmesan cheese. put the lid back on and shake to mix. you might need to whisk it a bit to get the flour blended.
add the mixed ingredients to the sour cream in the pot and turn the burner on to medium low, stirring occasionaly until frozen veggies are cooked.
dump the pasta back in the pot and mix.
add pepper and parsley to taste.

from here you can serve as-is with a little parm on the individual servings, or put it in a casserole dish and bake in a 375 degree oven until the top browns and crusts a bit, maybe 30 to 40 minutes. you can also cool it, wrap it up and freeze it for up to a week, adding 20 minutes to the cooking time if moving from freezer to oven.

nothing fancy, almost a little embarrassing to admit i serve that to people i love, but it's basic, tastes good, is easy and... uh... uses enough sour cream that no one in the house really cares.

except for this week.

this week i had to come up with something a little more nutritionally substantive. onward to:

deluxe tuna noodle casserole preheat oven to 375 degrees.
in a medium saucepan saute the mushrooms, onion and celery in olive oil until they start to get soft, around 3 to 5 minutes.
add the tuna, frozen vegetables, soy sauce, garlic and mushroom soup, stir to mix, and heat on medium low.
cook the egg noodles until almost done, drain and rinse.
taste the sauce, adding pepper and hot sauce to taste. more garlic isn't a bad thing either.
add half the jack cheese to the sauce and stir to mix.
return the noodles to their cooking pot and add the sauce to mix.
pour into a 9 by 12 baking or large casserole dish.
top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs (if using) and pop it in the oven.
20 to 30 minutes later -- or when the top is browned and crusty -- remove and serve.

obviously there's a lot more work involved in this version, and a lot more dirty dishes. i also missed that tang of sour cream from my easy version, so next time i'm cutting the mushroom soup in half and adding 16 oz. of sour cream instead. it's still a pasta dish, not the most diet-friendly at that, but it is, after all, a tuna noodle casserole.

some things just are what they are.
Monday, October 16, 2006
  amazing banana oatmeal cookies
i swear, i have no idea where this recipe came from. i found it one day written on a sheet of legal paper that was folded and tucked away among papers several years old. no matter. i made these recently and again tonight and they had the most amazing banana bread-like consistency -- even better than banana bread itself!

preheat oven to 325 degrees
in a medium bowl mix together flour, salt, baking soda nutmeg and cinnamon
in a larger mixing bowl cream butter and sugar together
add bananas and egg (or arrowroot) to butter and sugar and mix well, the smoother the better
mix the dry ingredients into the wet in thirds. better will be wetter and stickier than most cookie recipes, and it turns out that's okay.
mix in the oatmeal.

drop large spoon-sized lumps of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart, and place in the oven for 10 to 13 minutes. they should be slightly browned on top and bottom and will be very soft when they are done. let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack

the place will smell like banana bread for a long time, the intensity matched by the ripeness of the bananas. they will be so moist from the banana that storing them in an airtight container will actually soften them so i'd leave them out overnight (unless you have naughty kittens/housemates/vermin who might get into them). certainly a higher heat and longer cooking time will yield more cookie-like results, but i prefer the way these came out so soft and bread-y.

makes 2 dozen good sized cookies.
  grilled cheat and creamy tomato shuck
i'm currently at a dry spell for what to cook. i look through the recipe file, on line, in the magazines and cookbooks and nothing inspires. even when i've been eating out lately nothing really floats my boat.

i think it must be the switch to fall. the body is trying to adjust, trying to figure out just how thick a layer of blubber to lay down. all i've been craving during the day is pasta, and that just makes me feel bloated. where a few weeks ago i could have been happy with the fresh fruits of the late summer harvest i now couldn't care less about them. prime apple season and i just don't want any.

tonight's dinner was a quickie, and a cheat since it was mostly store-bought: grilled cheese sandwiches and creamy tomato soup from a carton. granted, no growth hormones in the cheese, organic bread, organic tomato soup but it takes no skill to heat these things up, satisfying as they are.

i did doctor the soup by crushing some fresh garlic cloves into it, tapping in some dried basil, and topping the servings off with some grated romano. and if i pan fry a sandwich in butter until it's all gooey, cheesy goodness why is it called grilled?

i know it's just a spell, a patch. soon ideas will be springing out of my head like demented arcimboldo jack-in-the-boxes, and the change to daylight savings time will bring about the ceremonial return of shepherd's pie, and there will be birds to roast and hot cocoa to mix.

but this week i think it's all about the quick and easy. there are, however, some brown bananas that may need to be rescued...
Thursday, October 12, 2006
  curry peanut chicken
so i followed up the mac 'n cheese with this recipe last night, courtesy of elise at simply recipes. i don't know why i've shied away from thai-style curry dishes -- fear of culinary failure? -- but this provided a nice entry into the ease of possibilities.

for the record, i used jalapeno instead of serrano chilis and cut the number in half. an untried spicy recipe in this house has to pass the lips of an 8 and 10 year old and there's no sense cooking for kids if they can't/won't eat it. as it stands, they loved it. went back for seconds. everyone did. not a leftover in the house to prove it was ever made.

i'm now on the lookout for a nice green or yellow coconut curry. that and some satay with peanut sauce and i may never order-out thai again.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
  cheese & mac & cheese
this is insanely decadent. my zuska loves this mac n' cheese that they serve at our local pub and i've long thought i could take it on. after consulting a couple of recipes for general proportions, i concocted what has to be the most insanely rich macaroni and cheese i've ever made. if you try this i'd love to hear your thoughts.

warning: not for the diet conscious! you can substitute low fat dairy items if you want to, but i'm not going to vouch for the end result!

orecchiette with carmelized onions and many cheeses
pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
in a large skillet on medium-low heat cook the onions in the melted butter, stirring occasionally. it will take 15 to 20 minutes for them to carmelize while you work on the cheese sauce. if they are ready before it's time to compile just set them aside off heat.
boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package. personally, i like to overcook them just a bit for this recipe.
when the pasta is cooked, strain, return to the pan, add the sour cream and carmelized onions and mix. set aside until ready for cheese sauce.
put the half & half in a saucepan and heat on medium heat until it starts to bubble a bit.
using a whisk, stir in the cheeses (except the parm), mustard, nutmeg and pepper until well blended.
pour cheese sauce into the pasta and give a good mix. add salt and pepper to taste.
now pour the mac and cheese into a casserole dish (we actually used a 9" square cake pan) and top with parmesan cheese.
pop it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until top has browned and cheese starts bubbling out the sides.
let it cool a few moments so you don't burn yourself. around our house it's called "i can't stand it any longer, it smells so good! let's eat!"

cubed ham, asparagus tips, green peas and anything else you might serve with a cheese sauce can be blended in. pearl onions could be substituted for the carmelized onions, but why?

goes great with beer, especially a bavarian allagash tripel.
works fine with a crisp red wine.
broccoli would go great with that.
feed four hungry adults.
kid tested and approved (except for the onions).
don't expect leftovers.
  definition please: stew vs. soup
lately i've been running across this problem where a recipe refers to itself as a stew and the final product is more of a soup, and vice versa. the american heritage dictionary (via gives us this definition for soup:
A liquid food prepared from meat, fish, or vegetable stock combined with various other ingredients and often containing solid pieces.
and then turns around and gives us this one for stew:
A dish cooked by stewing, especially a mixture of meat or fish and vegetables with stock. A mixture likened to this dish
so is it all just a matter of how much time is involved in the cooking process? does cooking something longer, essentially to stew it, define what it is? if so, what am i to make of a quick stew that is soup-like, or a chili that sits more like a stew?
n 1: ground beef and chili peppers or chili powder often with tomatoes and kidney beans [syn: chili con carne]
trust me, i've seen chilis and chili recipes that had NONE of these ingredients in them.

the question is: who gets to define what?
Friday, October 06, 2006
  donuts (& doughnuts)
when i was a kid the place to go for donuts was winchell's. despite being a chain, all donuts were made on the premises by the franchise-owning family of fat, happy donut makers. they were a round bunch, pasty white faces with rosy-red apple cheeks and a jolly attitude. honestly, they looked like a family right out of a rankin-bass holiday TV special.

they made the best donuts, in flavors i really haven't seen in a long time. vanila and chocolate cake donuts with cherry, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, maple, banana, pumpkin, orange and lemon icing, some with sprinkles, some with nuts, some with coconut, some with crumb topping, some dusted with sugar and cinnamon. along with the raised donuts, glazed or frosted, round or twisted, you could order two-dozen assorted donuts and never get a duplicate. i don't recall a time where i did show up to their little pass-through order window when i couldn't get a flavor that wasn't still warm.

in high school i had a job in westwood right across the street from an institution, stan's donut shop. stan himself was still there every night, him and his assistant (or partner, i was never sure) making fresh donuts for the next day. unlike the winchell's family who served up large batches of perfectly identical donuts, stan was a donut artisan whose specialties included a blueberry cake donut and what was called (probably in violation of trademark) the reese's peanut butter pocket donut. cradled inside the center of a hole-less donut was a core of real peanut butter topped with chocolate chips melted into a crown of fudgey icing. steep for a donut at the time -- nearly double the price of a regular donut -- it was rich enough too keep me feed for an entire night, which is saying something when you consider i was a teenage boy at the time.

years pass, and suddenly it occurs to me that i haven't really had a good, fresh, enjoyable donut in a long time. was it because i had grown a more sophisticated palate, or did something else happen along the way?

jump ahead to the present, relocated to new england. on the west cost you can stand on any corner of any metropolitan area and see half a dozen starbucks in either direction, but on this side of the country those starbucks are easily outnumbered by dunkin donuts. you can imagine how amused i was to hear the claim "america runs on dunkin" when i know from having traveled across this great land that there are entire time zones who would ask "runs on dunkin what?" ah, that quaint east coast hubris i'd heard about, that sense that nothing real exists outside its sphere of influence. and as proof, when anything from the outside world threatens that cozy little bubble -- say, krispy kreme fresh-made donuts -- it's circle the wagons time, boys, these usurpers mean us harm!

though limited to the glazed donut, the krispy kreme is the closest thing to those roly-poly memories of my youth. hot and fresh, the beat the pants off the "local" favorites by a mile. i say local because i haven't seen proof that a dunkin donut was made on site or even within a hundred miles from where it was on display. they certainly don't taste like they were made within the previous 24 hours, all heavy and stale. and i have seen the early morning dunkin deliveries, rolling racks in the back of a standard truck -- no refrigeration, the racks aren't even closed to the elements -- hauled down a ramp and into the back of the dunkin store where an employee brings out "fresh" arrivals from behind the scenes. this is a far cry from the open donut kitchen of the winchell's (or even krispy kreme) where you can actually see the donut go from fat, to cooling rack, to glazing, to display.

i am told that dunkin is a blue collar brand, a place for basic coffee at a basic price and a stick of dough to go with. i don't drink coffee and couldn't care less, but when your store has the name DONUT covering its second half you'd expect some kind of attention to the item in question. from what i gather then either the blue collar joe drinkers -- which includes easily 90% of the population from what i can see -- either doesn't care about donuts or has been conditioned to indifference over time by a company that threw in the towel long ago and decided the clientele wouldn't give a crap anyway. and maybe they were right.

health consciousness be damned, if you're going to indulge in fried dough with sugared frosting why would you settle for less? why settle for a glob of grease-flavored cake with a sandy consistency, or a spongy, flavorless pillow that tastes only of the acrid glaze that coats it? why make a donut at all if you aren't committed to what it means to make a true donut?

will someone, please, resurrect the donut to its former glory? please?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
  10 pm snack time
when i was in college i lived in a student housing co-op where we had snack at 10 pm five nights a week, sunday through thursday. it was a good time for a study break (or a good excuse to call it a night and start socializing) and generally meant something simple and baked fresh. a bad snack night might include a burnt zucchini bread offering, or maybe slightly bitter fruit tarts. a good snack night sent ripples through the building like a wildfire, causing lines to start forming at the edge of the kitchen at 9:30 pm.

the best snack night was always chocolate chip cookie night. once a month, usually a thursday night, it was the one time you could guarantee to see 95% of the house all at once.

i learned how to make chocolate chip cookies during my second year in the house when one of the snack cooks failed to show up for his shift. i was given the sacred recipe for chocolate chip cookies because it was presumed i was too green to suggest my own snack and to keep the natives at bay. that and the fact that the kitchen managers felt even if i burnt them it would go down easier than riot that would ensue if there was no snack at all.

it started with 16 pounds of butter. we had butter by the pound in bulk, but if i had to do that by unwrapping traditional butter that would be 64 sticks. of butter. i had spent the previous 19 years of my life raised on margarine and hadn't seen 16 pounds of butter in the aggregate. that was a lot of butter.

into the massive hobart mixer, along with 32 cups of white sugar, 32 cups of brown sugar and a whole palate of eggs. while that was whipping up nice and creamy i sifted the dry ingredients in. last, a massive box of bulk chocolate chips that had to be at least 10 pounds. from there it was just the process of greasing up pans and rotating them through a double set of convection ovens.

while i was doing this another house member named gretchen claimed to have done time with debbie fields (as in mrs.) before her stores went nationwide and she explained the finer points of cookie making. digging up a dozen 1/4 measuring cups she showed me how to scoop, level, cut in half, and place the dough on the rounded edge. all the cookies would be uniform and bake perfectly round. my first couple of batches, pre-gretchen, turned out like the lumpy dung piles i had grown up eating; post-gretchen, perfect cookies. by sheer luck i had managed to cream the butter and sugar to her satisfaction before adding the flour (and long before she arrived). i had also managed to get the right dough consistency to yield a more cake-y cookie, just the way i like them. by 9 pm the smells had lofted up the four floors of the building and people began hanging out casually in the dining area. i was asked to come back and make chocolate chip cookies for snack three more times before i moved out at the end of that school year.

for years i used to mentally scale down the foodservice recipe for my own needs, never really trusting the proportions in cookbooks and on the backs of the bags of chips. now i just look at whatever recipe is handy for a general sense of the amounts and take it from there. as good as they can be, they're never quite like those times i started out with 16 pounds of butter.
Monday, October 02, 2006
  comfort meal -- meatloaf & cheesy scalloped potatoes
i thought i'd get some resistance when i mentioned the potatoes. trying to cut back on the starches and carbs in the house, donchaknow.

the meatloaf (one word, unless you're talkin about that bat out of hell) is a combination of two separate recipes. you know how it is, you get one recipe down, you make it a few times, then you forget exact proportions and so you go to look it up. but you can't find the original recipe, so you try a new recipe. it's similar, but not. each recipe has good points and bad. then you find the old recipe and make it. hmm, now the other recipe seems to have an edge. finally you go whole hog and merge the two into one and a new family recipe is born

what's odd is that the original recipe was for a vegetarian meatloaf. added to a transmogrified regular meatloaf recipe. final version: brave new meatloaf.

brave new meatloaf throw it all in a large bowl and mix it up. i do it all by hand, from the chopping to the mixing, though i've gotten a little squishy about actually touching raw meat so i wear disposable latex gloves. it that cheating? maybe, but i have a tendency to chew my nails and the last little surprise i want is a bit of salmonella growing beneath them. use a food processor and a mixer if you want, but the last time i used them with meatloaf it tasted all wrong.

divide the meat into two balls and drop each into a greased loaf pan. yeah, this recipe makes a lot of meatloaf. we like out meatloaf, okay? the leftovers (when there are any) make good sandwiches.

it bakes in a 325 oven for 50 to 70 minutes, depending. use a meat themometer. and when it gets where you want it to be, top each loaf with a half cup of ketchup or chili sauce and set it under the broiler for five minutes or so. yummy tomato-y crust!

cheesy scalloped potatoes

this is so damn easy i don't know why i haven't made it before. maybe i was scared off from a childhood of scalloped potatoes that came out of a box.
in a small saucepan cook onions and garlic in butter until soft
stir in flour to mix, followed immediately by the milk or half & half.
cook mixture over medium heat until it thickens, then add cheese and reduce to simmer.
add 1/8 teaspoon pepper and salt to taste.

butter the bottom and sides of 9 x 13 baking or large casserole dish.
layer half the potatoes on the bottom of the dish and cover with half the cheese sauce.
layer the rest of the potatoes and cover with cheese.
top with parsley flakes and place in a 325 degree over for around 70 minutes. the top will have nice bits of golden browned cheesy goodness.

now, i probably should have mentioned this earlier, but timing is everything if you want both the meatloaf and the potatoes coming out of the over at the same time. here's how to do it.

first, get all the ingredients together, chopping and prepping and setting things aside in bowls. to keep the potatoes from changing color, place in a bowl of cold water after slicing.
make the meatloaf and set into the pans.
turn the oven on to 325 to pre-heat.
start the cheese sauce for the potatoes.
put the meatloaves in the oven on a top rack. note the time.
assemble the potatoes. when the meatloaves have been in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes put the potatoes in on a rack closer to the bottom of the oven.
when the meatloaves hit the 50 minute mark check the temperature. you're looking for a read of 160 degrees.
when the meatloaves hit the magic mark top them with ketchup or chili sauce and switch things over to broil.
watch the potatoes. if they're looking done when you check the meatloaves, then pull them. if not, let them brown a bit under the broiler as well.
ta da! they should be ready to plate at about the same time.

oh, did you want another vegetable with that? we did frozen broccoli floretes. could have done fresh bit didn't have them. took all of five minutes, started right after i topped the loaves with ketchup.
ta da! meat and two sides ready at the same time in about an hour and 20 minutes, start to finish.

everyone ate seconds.
everyone ate too much.
no leftover potatoes.
  the white chili that wasn't really either
this is a modified recipe from the whole foods market cookbook called "chili blanco with chicken". why they would use to word blanco and not go all the way with the spanish is beyond me. does one foreign word make it seem exotic, but not so exotic as to scare people off?

anyway, the following recipe is modified not because there was anything wrong with the original, but because i just can't help fussing with ingredients. now it's officially mine. oh, and i'm calling this soup because in my book a chili isn't thin and liquidy. and it was more of a yellow-y-brown than anything blanco.

sopa con el pollo y la salchicha marinade first, have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking. if you are using link sausages and you have the time freeze them slightly, remove the casing, and slice into disks before cooking.

after you've cut the chicken plop it in a bowl with the marinade ingredients. give it a good toss and set aside.
in the bottom of a large pot cook the sausage until done. we like ours a little over-done so it's crispy. remove the sausage and set aside to drain on a paper towel. drain the pot of excess fat.
dump chicken into the pot and cook until opaque, about 3 minutes or so.
add olive oil, vegetables and spices and soak until soft, another 3 minutes or so.
add the cooked sausage, beans, broth and beer. bring to a boil then drop to a simmer. if you'd rather not use beer then omit it -- no substitution necessary.
let it simmer 30 minutes.
just before serving chop a handful of cilantro and add it to the pot.
squeeze the juice from a lime into the soup and give it a quick stir.
salt to taste only if you must.

serve hot.
makes enough for six people. maybe more. or less, with leftovers.
good on cool fall or winter nights.
will cause noses to run. in a good way.
drink plenty of water, or more of that beer if you bought a sixer.

kid tested and approved.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
  mini burgers (& sliders, or slyders)
is this a new thing? do you really need detailed instructions on how to make mini burgers? i mean, white castle has been making these for a while -- like 80 years or so (though under the term slyder, which was news to me). hell, they even sell disgusting frozen versions in the supermarkets.

you wanna see something really mini? check this out, via craftster. impressive. one way to help shrink calorie consumption; it probably takes more energy to make this meal that to consume it!
recipes and musings on food -- and anything else for that matter -- from a guy with a sticky brain who likes food. perhaps he likes food too much.

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