Every once in a while I look in the “something special” case at the butcher’s counter in the supermarket. Frustratingly enough, the one butcher we had in the neighborhood went out of business not too long after we moved in, so there’s usually nothing interesting to cook. This time, cruising past, I saw a cut of lamb I’d never seen before. It was a steak created by cutting a cross-section of a leg of lamb. I love lamb. Actually, I love any meat with a strong flavor and a little gaminess to it. Usually this kind of food waits for a special occasion, but the only one coming up is my birthday, and making my own birthday dinner seems a little silly, so it is being made just because. So there.
Elizabeth has been working late a lot these days, crazy deadlines for two shows (that I can’t talk about, sorry) and it can be a challenge to figure out what to make since I can’t be absolutely sure what time she’ll be home. Yesterday, Ian’s dinner wasn’t an issue since he had a playdate/dinner with one of his classmates from school. I mention all of this because I have to apologize ahead of time if the timing on the dish isn’t perfect… there was a lot of futzing with the temperature as I was trying to make it possible for us to have a nice hot dinner at the end of a long, wet day. It was also a wonderful opportunity to finish up the handful of new potatoes I had on hand. Ian doesn’t like potatoes (it’s a texture thing) so I don’t make them too often anymore. A shame, really, as I expect quite a few of them in our CSA box when that gets started (more about that in a future post).
At around 7 am this morning, my brother gave me a call because he was picking out a pinot noir at Publix for a dinner that he was having this evening. Having tried to give him some advice on the direction he should consider on that front he mentioned to me that his dinner companion would be bringing chicken to his house for cooking. Usually people say no red wine with white meat, but that’s not always true. As with any rule, they are really there as guidelines and truly great food (or design — my other thing) is based on knowing when and how to break those rules. To that end, I’ve decided to try to help by creating a recipe that will pair a pinot (tragically that I’ve not tasted) with chicken. I’ve also not actually tried this recipe (though I’ve had something similar), so I’ll have to wait for the comments section to see if this turned out all right — and a real photo.
Boy I hope Google Translate got that right.
So when we were working on the gift registry for our wedding, Elizabeth added a Crock Pot. I thought she’d lost it. What in the world would we need THAT for?
It has been a well loved piece of kitchen equipment for close on eleven years; creating stews, pulled pork and other wonderful, slow-cooked foods that I’d not thought that much about previously. Today being Cinco de Mayo (and Tyler’s 9 month birthday), I decided to try my hand at Tacos de Carnitas. I apologize in advance to anyone in the Mexican community if this isn’t totally authentic, but we do what we can with what we have available. I didn’t make the corn tortillas from scratch (sorry AB), but I tried to buy ones that seemed like they would be best for the job at hand. And so: a la cocina!
I was considering making basic hamburgers on the grill earlier in the week, but it didn’t really work out with everyone’s schedule. And when the weather turned sour I decided that it would be indoor cooking for me. Now there is nothing wrong with a stovetop burger, but why settle when you have bacon? The problem with your traditional bacon burger is keeping the bacon on the burger while you eat it. Then there’s the cheese… the whole thing becomes a greasy mess. I figured it would be fun to do something a little different.
I was considering crowd-sourcing one part of this one. I was a little conflicted as to which cured pork product I wanted to include in the salad to serve as a counterpoint to the sweetness of many of the ingredients. I enjoy making salads with fruit in them, whether they be fresh or dried doesn’t matter. Fruit in a salad can lend a bit of a surprise to what is usually a very savory dish with a hint of acidity and maybe some sweetness from the dressing. In this case, I decided to use a few fresh berries I had around but I also wanted to bring back some of the savoriness by adding either bacon (in this case, an applewood smoked) or proscuitto. I was considering the former because it would keep it sweet and the later because it would compliment the balsamic vinaigrette I was planning on dressing it with. Either way would have been fine and if you’d like to make this one with the one I didn’t use (proscuitto)… please let me know how it came out.
Sometimes, when you’ve no idea what you want to make for dinner, it can really help that you just watched an episode of Iron Chef America. My wife, Elizabeth, and our older son were outside playing and I was inside with a sleeping baby in my arms. So I sat on the couch and watched TV. When judgement came on Iron Chef I suddenly realized that it was already 5:45 pm and I had no clue what to make. When the show was over, I went outside and handed the dozy but just awake Tyler to his mother and ran inside to start boiling some water and back outside to preheat the grill. I grabbed some sausages I had in the refrigerator, a container of cherry tomatoes and an onion and set to work. Continue reading
On Monday, my sons Ian (5), Tyler (8 months) and I went to Costco to pick up diapers and other assorted bulk items. While traveling through the produce section (for onions), Ian noticed a bag of asparagus. Since he loves asparagus he requested we pick it up. This event, along with the lovely spring weather (finally!) and the hard boiled eggs left-over from Easter, inspired this salad.
Here’s the thing: anyone who owns a whisk and a large bowl is fully capable of creating a simple vinaigrette. I’ve not bought a bottled salad dressing (outside of a ranch for dipping vegetables in for a school party) in probably 5 years – maybe longer. It just isn’t necessary. All you need is a good assortment of vinegars, a jar of dijon mustard, salt, black pepper and a good extra virgin olive oil. I happen to like California olive oils, but that’s just personal opinion. Just make sure it is a good green fruity one. You could get fancy by adding fresh herbs if you happen to have any in the house – heck, dried works, too. Shallots are lovely as well, but most people don’t even know what they are. Anyway, building a proper vinaigrette is more of a procedure than a recipe.
It’s a funny thing that when you change your dinner plans, sometimes the dinner you end up making is fancier than the intended meal. We’ve had a ham sitting patiently in our refrigerator for over a day now. We’d intended to make it for Sunday night dinner, but with an unplanned playdate thrown into the works we ended up with no time to cook. Today we got home too late from our older son’s after-school cooking class (they made sugar cookies today if you were wondering) so the ham would wait for another night. In the freezer we tend to keep a variety of interesting stuffed pastas – which can be a satisfying and, most importantly, easy dinner. That, along with the fact that we had a half a bottle of white wine (not my first choice with red sauce) and a log of goat cheese in the ‘fridge, made for the inadvertently fancy dinner this evening.
(Oh… sorry about the lack of posts as of late. We’ve been traveling a lot and there just hasn’t been much to write about).