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.

Dinner 1/6/23

Chicken pot pie empanadas with gravy

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this appetizer anywhere else, but it is a brilliant idea for fall/winter. Empanadas filled with chicken and veg as you would find in a chicken pot pie, with the gravy served on the side as a dipping sauce. I had this at The Derby in dowtown Salem on Friday night and it was really good. The dough is standard empanada dough, and they’re deep fried, all of which was fine but I wonder how it would work, or even if it can work, with puff pastry and baked. I might have to try making it myself both ways.

This is on the menu as an appetizer, bur I had it as my main because I’d eaten a big lunch at work and did not feel like having a big entree. The Derby is pretty much focused on apps, sandwiches, and such in the first place, so that was no issue. My wife had the fish tacos and our daughter had buffalo mac and cheese. We’ve been to The Derby a couple of times now and have enjoyed the food, sticking to apps both times. At least in the middle of winter there aren’t a gazillion tourists, though it was normal Friday-night level of busy.

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.

Weekend Dining 12/10-11/2022

Hokkaido-style shoyu ramen, gyoza, aji-tama, edamame

Had to run an errand in Harvard Square on Saturday, which was a perfect excuse to go to Santouku Ramen for lunch. The weather was freezing cold and windy, so a hot bowl of ramen really hit the spot. As usual, the place was packed, but we didn’t have to wait much more than 10 minutes to get a table.

Hokkaido-style ramen uses a miso-based broth, which you can easily tell from the cloudy beige color of the soup. I am more partial to tonkotsu ramen, where the broth is made by slowly braising pork bones, but Santouku makes such good soup that there’s no reason to quibble. My other favorite ramen joint, Amateras Ramen, made the best tonkotsu, but they closed for business a few months ago. I ate the gyozas, which did not come out of the kitchen hot, but I skipped the aji-tama egg this time, mainly because the soup itself was very filling.

Ramen had a real moment in the Boston dining scene a few years ago, but it has definitely faded somewhat. The large number of Japanese students at Harvard, along with tour buses of Japanese tourists in Harvard Square keeps this restaurant doing well, so I don’t expect it to disappear any time soon.

Pepperoni pizza

On Sunday, we went to see Phil Rosenthal, the star of Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phil”, doing a book tour appearance at the Wilbur Theater. Phil is as adorable in person as he is on the show. He’s one of our favrotie things to watch, and has been inspirational to us as we plan and dream about places to go on vacation. Even though it was the first snowy evening of the season, we took the train into town and trudged to the theater. The show began at 7:00 and was over by 8:30, but the train back home wasn’t until 10:00, so our plan was to go back over to North Station and check out the new food hall there. Even though there was a big concert at the TD Garden, most of the places in the food hall were closed, so we ventured across the street to Halftime Pizza and had a couple of slices.

Pizza-by-the-slice is always a crapshoot, because who knows how long the pizza has been sitting around, and a lot of pizza places manage to barely re-heat the slices. This pizza must have been pretty fresh, and they definitely got it back to piping-hot to the point that I would not have guessed it was reheated at all. It was exactly what I had been in the mood for – the right level of greasy, the right proportion of sauce to cheese, thin crust that had a little crunch but wasn’t overbaked. During his appearance, Phil admitted that his favorite food is pizza, and I am right there with him on that.

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.

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 10/15/22

Cafe Ansari,Vienna

First night in Vienna. We didn’t really get any sleep on the plane, but we did crash for the afternoon once we got into our hotel room so we would have enough energy to go out to dinner.

Cafe Ansari is a Georgian restaurant,recommended to me by my friend who lives here. We’ve never had Georgian cuisine before, so it seemed like a good adventure. Our goal is to not just have schnitzel all week,but to try a bit of whatever Vienna has to offer. Tomorrow night we’re going to a traditional Viennese place that specializes in those sorts of dishes.

It’s a cool,wet evening,but there were people dining outside. Luckily we were sealed inside. The atmosphere was warm and friendly.

Khatchapuri
Baba ghannoush, purple carrot,and sweet potato with sheep cheese spreads

We started with khatchapuri, which is a soft pita style bread stuffed with cheese ,sort of like a Middle Eastern quesadilla. With that, we also had a trio of spreads – a baba ghannoush, sweet potato with sheep cheese, and a purple carrot hummus. They were all delicious, but the sweet potato one was the best of the three.

Broiled eggplant with administration paste and mango yogurt sauce

Bridget chose this eggplant dish. As a non meat eater, traditional Viennese cuisine is not her thing, so I was glad this place had entree choices that were up her alley.

Chackapuli

I had chachapuli, which is a braise of lamb,with quince slices and served with a side of buttery mashed turnip. The fruit really cut the richness of the braised lamb,and it was perfect for an October evening.

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.