Dinner 1/11/23

Honey-Chipotle Ribs, jalapeño cornbread, cole slaw

This week’s theme is MEAT. Our daughter just went back to college to conclude her Christmas break yesterday, but while she was home, my meat consumption increased exponentially.

I have posted the recipe for these honey-chipotle ribs before, in case you want to make them yourself. These are pork spareribs, which I do not think turn out as well as baby back ribs. They are much, much fattier and gristly. The honey-chipotle barbecue sauce, though, makes up for it, and they are delicious.

My wife made the cornbread per the daughter’s request. It had corn niblets and cheese in it as well as the chile pepper. I thought it was still too sweet, but the texture was good.

I made cole slaw from scratch but discovered that the food processor blade that shreds the cabbage only slices the carrots. Made the final product a little weird.

So, all in all, not the most sucessful dinner we evere produced, but good enough to eat anyway, and not evereything has to be amazing, otherwise nothing is amazing.

Lunch 1/4/23

Beef stew

So the first thing I ACTUALLY cooked for 2023 was a pot of beef stew on New Year’s Day. One year I made the traditional black-eyed peas and collard greens for New Year’s Day, and nobody ate it except me, so I haven’t bothered again. The cold snap we had over Christmas had me hankering for all sorts of hot comfort food, even though the weather here for NYD was quite mild.

Stew is always better a day or two later, and this was no exception. I warmed some up for my lunch a couple of days later, and it was delicious. I noticed that The Kitchn did a comparison of beef stews last week, too, and they chose Ina Garten’s recipe as the best one. The recipe I use is very basic, but the next time maybe I will give hers a shot.

Dinner 1/2/23

Swedish meatballs, boiled potatoes, peas, and lingonberry jam

We took a ride to IKEA for New Year’s Day to buy some assorted Scandianvian home goods, among which, of course, was a bag of frozen meatballs, a packet of sauce mix, and a jar of lingonberry jam.

Swedish meatballs are not particularly hard to make from scratch, but heating up some meatballs in the air fryer and making sauce from a packet is even easier. Plus, the end result is identical to what you get when you eat in the IKEA cafeteria. And, you can have as many meatballs as you want without paying extra!!

I did boil up some little red bliss potatoes and toss them with butter, salt, and pepper, so it’s not like I didn’t do ANYTHING. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Dinner 12/9/2022

Ribeye steak, baked potato, sauteed asparagus

Friday night was steak night. I had a rather frustrating work day trying to fix an issue with one of our VPNs, so by the end of the day, I was not in the mood for anything challenging to cook. Luckily, I had thought to defrost a steak a couple of days earlier. Say what you will about meat-and-potatoes, but it’s easy and satisfying, and I was in a much better frame of mind after dsinner than I was before dinner.

I have tried many different ways to cook a steak, but lately I am using the method espoused by Sam The Cooking Guy, which is simply to flip the steak every couple of minutes for 8-10 minutes (depending on your desired level of doneness). I like my steak on the red side of medium-rare, so I aim for the lower end of that time. I use a cast iron skillet heated until the first wisps of smoke start to appear. Lightly oil the steak with a little avocado oil, sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. I prefer to have NY strip sirloin, but ribeye was what I had in the freezer. I think ribeye is better on the grill.

Dinner 11/20/22

New England baked beans and hot dogs

We had a week of cold weather a few weeks ago, and it got me in the mood to bake a pot of beans. It’s a project, because you have to soak the beans overnight, then cook the beans, then assemble the baked bean ingredients and bake the pot for four hours. Nevertheless, they are very, very good, satisfying, and worth the effort at least once a year in the colder weather.

The recipe I used did not produce a final product that was very sweet. A lot of New England baked bean recipes load up on stuff like brown sugar or maple syrup to make them sweet. The beans themselves are cooked with aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, some fresh thyme and a bay leaf) so that they are quite flavorful on their own. Once the beans are cooked, you render a few slices of bacon (chopped) in your pot, put the beans into the pot, then you add 2/3 cup of molasses, some of the cooking water from the beans, and a little brown mustard (plus salt and pepper, obvs.).

I steamed a couple of hot dogs to go with the beans. For many years, my father always had beans and hot dogs for his Saturday night dinner, but my mother would just open a can of B&M Baked Beans, and she would get him a couple of natural-casing hotdogs from the supermarket. We lived in Maine, so sometimes she would buy the red-colored hot dogs that are popular there. I just had ordinary skinless hot dogs, but they were fine, and the beans were outstanding. They were even better about a week later when we had them again as a leftover.

Dinner 11/9/2022

White beans, kielbasa and spinach

This is one of severeal simple dinners I like to make for myself. I got the idea from a soup I had somewhere that had kale, white beans, and linguiça, but it doesn’t seem to be a terribly original concept. Brown the sausage slices in a little olive oil with a clove of crushed garlic, add a can of drained cannellini beans (or other canned white beans of your choice), then add spinach leaves to the pan in batches, adding more as the spinach starts to wilt. My supermarket has 10-ounce bags of spinach, which seems like an adequate quantity for this 1-2 serving meal. Add a splash of chicken broth or water to help the spinach finish cooking down. Season to taste with salt and pepper, maybe a pinch of red pepper flakes.

For this particular iteration, I use North Country brand kielbasa, which is very smoky flavored. You could use regular kielbasa, turkey kielbasa, linguiça, or any other pre-cooked sausage you want. As much as I like North Country smoked meats, I think this is probably better with ordinary kielbasa. I can get good kielbasa from the Polish market in Salem, but I also learned that Chicopee, MA is the “Kielbasa Capital of Massachusetts” and might have to make a field trip to check it out.

Lunch 11/23/22

Spam, Egg and Cheese on toast

Don’t @ me about liking Spam. A million Hawaiians can’t be wrong. You might consider a Spam, egg and cheese to be a breakfast sandwich, but I like ’em for lunch. Mostly because I am not ambitioua enough when I get up in the morning to go through the business of making one.

I try to keep the yolk a little runny, and if you look you can see some yolk that leaked out when I cut the sandwich. No worries, I just mop it up with a corner of the sandwich. It’s definitely easier to toast the bread in the toaster and assemble the sandwich once the ingredients are ready than to try to grill the bread in the pan, but I like the buttery grilled bread a bit more.

Thanksgiving 2022

Roast turkey with gravy, sauteed Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar, sage stuffing, green bean casserole

Butternut squash and apple soup

Roasted dry-brined turkey breast

Roaster turkey legs and wings

We cooked at home for Thanksgiving this year and stuck to pretty standard items. Roast turkey, stuffing, the inevitable green bean casserole, and such.

For the last couple of years, we were able to get a very small 8-pound turkey from Walden Meat, but this year they sent us a 13-pound bird. Way too much for three people. I broke the bird down and roasted the legs and wings on their own, then for Thanksgiving Day cry-brined and roasted the entire breasr. My wife and daughter only eat the white meat, so I saved the legs and wings for other uses. I used the back and the wing tips, along with the innards, to make turkey stock, which was glroiously gelatinous when it cooled. The cat got the cooked liver. Between the three of us, we only ate one half of the breast, so the vast majority of the turkey ended up as leftovers.

I dunno, it all just feels like more effort than it is worth. We liked our dinner well enough, but two days of cooking and trashing the kitchen for what ends up being a relatively boring meal feels like a disproportionate amount of work.

Dinner 10/9/22

Roast beef, sauteed green beans with garlic and chili flakes, scalloped potatoes with Gruyere

My mother made roast beef for Sunday “dinner” (served at noon, the old-fashioned way) more weeks than not when I was growing up. She usually made potatoes of some sort, usually baked, maybe some canned corn (cooked in milk, the old-fashioned way) or some green vegetable we kids wouldn’t eat, and sometimes popovers. On Monday nights, we would get the leftover roast beef, cooked in the leftover gravy, served on slices of white bread as a sort of open-faced sandwich.

I make roast beef maybe 2-3 times a year. Because Charlotte was home, and because I wanted to use up the roast that has been in my freezer since April, this past Sunday was one of those occasions. My mother always uses Lipton onion soup mix on the outside of her roast, and I often do the same, but went with Penzey’s English Prime Rib Rub. It has more nuance, mainly because the celery seed is the most prominent flavor of the ingredients. I also like that rub on a ribeye steak. I think I nailed the doneness, thanks to my trusty ThermoPen;if I had pulled the roast at the suggested cook time, it would have been much too undercooked, but the instant-read thermometer convince me to give it an extra fifteen minutes and it was perfect.

My preference with roast beef is to roast some parsnips, potatoes, and carrots, but neither my wife nor daughter like them nearly as much as I do. I have been trying different cheesy scalloped potato recipes, and I thought I had a winner this time, but I think I had too much liquid and did not cook the casserole at a high enough temperature. It was tasy, but didn’t really come out as I wanted. Charlotte specifically asked for the green beans, and I was glad to oblige. They are always good.

Dinner 8/28/22

Pappardelle with roasted tomato sauce and sausage

Every year for at least the last 15 years, I have made a batch of roasted tomato sauce in late August or early September. I usually make a large batch and freeze a couple of containers’ worth of sauce to use for a while, but this year I only made a half-batch. It came out really thick and dark this year, with deep flavor. Maybe the best batch I’ve made in several years. I like to use it with baked pasta dishes, but I had a package of pappardelle in the cupboard and thought it might be good with the big noodles. I browned up half a pound of Italian sausage and added it to about 2/3 cup of the sauce and let that simmer to meld the flavor, then combined it with the cooked pasta and few tablespoons of the pasta water.

I am thinking of using some as a base to add to a lighter tomato sauce for something like chicken cacciatore. I love chicken baked in tomato sauce, and I think the hearty roasted sauce will be perfect with onions and peppers.