Flashback Friday – Busting At The Seams

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 8/19/08 at Exit 51.

Busting At The Seams

No, not those seams.  I mean my Frigidaire.

This is what happens when you go on South Beach.  Your refrigerator fills up with all kinds of food to the point that you can’t cram another thing in it. You just have to eat your way out. Continue reading “Flashback Friday – Busting At The Seams”

Give It Away. Give It Away. Give It Away, Now.


At what point is it ok to decide that something you thought would be a perfect gift really wasn’t?  Here it is, nearly 365 days after I received Cookwise for Christmas and honestly, that book is collecting some serious dust on my bookshelf.  I don’t get it.  I always enjoyed it when Shirley Corriher made a cameo appearance on Good Eats and I was certain that Cookwise would open a whole new understanding of food science to me.  So I read it cover to cover.  And none of it clicked for me.  None.  Nothing.  Nada. I’m convinced this has nothing to do with Miss Shirley and everything to do with me.  Wow, I never thought I’d use the “it’s not you it’s me” line to break up with a cookbook.

So in the spirit of giving, I’d like to find a new home for Miss Shirley.  One where she is appreciated and her knowledge of food science is regularly called upon.  Or at least called on more than once a year.  Want to win my copy of Cookwise?  Just leave me a comment below with the one thing at the top of your holiday gift list this year.  One commenter will be chosen via Random.org at noon on December 20th to receive an little extra holiday cheer.

The give away is open to residents of the US and Canada and the book will ship via USPS Media Mail.

My thanks to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for providing the soundtrack to my high school and college years as well as the title of this post.  Anthony and the boys are in no way associated with this bloggyness or any giveaway activity.

Food Memories – Grandma’s Wontons

This summer the Universe brought Lan from Angry Asian Creations into my world.  I forget the exact circumstances but it didn’t take me long to get AAC loaded into my Google Reader and start chatting with Lan via email about getting together in real life.  Having spent time with her, I would like to thank the Universe for using her influence to ever so slyly push me back towards my Bread Bible Studies.  Had we been in school together, I have a feeling that Lan and I would have been thick as thieves.  She tells it like it is and knows how to have a good time.  Check out her Live It List…inspiring.  And for the record Lan, I can totally help you out with #18.

I have a special place in my heart for Grandma’s and stories about how they love on us so when Lan offered me this story for her Food Memory, I jumped on it.  This originally appeared on Angry Asian Creations on 14 September 2009 and I’m glad to have the opportunity to share it with you here.

Comfort In A Bowl – Grandma’s Wonton Soup

did i ever tell you the story of when, at the age of 8, i ate 24 of my grandmother’s wonton dumplings? no? well allow me. 24 may not seem like a lot, or maybe it does, but at the time, i was a scrawny little shit, shorter than most of my classmates and while i never went to bed hungry, i can’t imagine it was cheap keeping me fed. i wasn’t aware of all the details, but i do recall grandmother counting pennies for my lunch money everyday and that is why she holds such prime real estate in my heart.

what i recall of that day is that grandma put a bowl of hot soup in front of me, heaping with wonton dumplings, the wrappers slick but at the same time wrinkly, clinging to the meat filling. and every time i emptied my bowl with a declaration that i wanted more, she would smile and make me more. for awhile, rather than extolling my grades (because back then, i really was a good student) or pimping my dance moves (Michael Jackson had nothing on me), she would tell anybody and everybody that i ate 24 of her wonton dumplings in one sitting. a pat on my head would follow. rather than be embarrassed, i would be comforted. yet another thing grandma was proud of me for, eating an assload of her food, something so easy and so damn good.

so when last weekend i felt like ass warmed over, i wanted comfort food. something to warm my very being, something that could possibly put more spring in my step. i spent all day saturday not only working on my DB challenge and a homemade chili concoction, i made grandma’s wonton dumplings. it is unbelievable and magical to me that despite how much my head and stomach hurt, i was able to stand in my kitchen all day and prepare this comfort food. because let me tell you, wrapping dumplings takes a hot minute! i meant it when i said on twitter that cooking/baking is such a balm for anything, especially when the end result brought such comfort to my sick body.

Grandma’s Wonton Soup
adapted from memory

*again, i don’t have exact measurements, i dumped a lot of stuff in a bowl

  • Wonton wrappers
  • about 1 lb ground pork
  • wood ear fungus, rehydrated in hot water, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • some vermicelli noodles, hydrated in hot water, roughly chopped
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 4oz pate
  • homemade chicken stock (really, you can use any kind of stock you want)

mix ground pork, fungus, onions, garlic, vermicelli, and pate together. add a dollop in the middle of wonton wrapper and make sure that you seal the meat in. i went simple and just folded the wrappers diagonally and sealed with a water/cornstarch mix. store in container covered with damp paper towel until ready to cook.

to cook, add to simmering pot of water (or stock) until wrappers are translucent. it doesn’t take long for the meat to cook thru. to serve, put in bowls and pour hot stock over dumplings. consume as is, or dipped in hoisin/chili sauce.

{printable recipe}

Boathouse Carrot Puree

image from the graphics fairy

I tend to be a wee bit unconventional about things.  Does that really surprise you?  I’m sorry if it does.  I like things the way I like them even if that goes against the norm.  Always have.  Always will.

In my younger days, this tendency may have resulted in me being thought of as difficult, rebellious, hard headed, or strong willed.  All of which are just really nice ways of saying huge pain in the behind.  As an adult, the unconventional label means the exact same thing.  But as an adult, I get to have a pretty big say about what is considered acceptable in my world.  This substantially cuts down on the number of “my house, my rules” arguments since it is, in fact, my house.

So what’s the point of fessing up that my head is harder than a cement block? Because that’s the context in which to understand holiday dinners at my house.  Once I got to play the “my house, my rules” card, holiday dinners became much more enjoyable.  See, I’ve got a secret.  I don’t like some holiday staples.  Like roast turkey.  The best things about the turkey are the crispy skin and the stuffing.  But there’s not enough skin to make a meal of and I’ve never mastered the art of stuffing (or dressing, since putting it inside the bird and making it actual stuffing is frowned upon).

Yes, my house is a Turkey Free Zone on Thanksgiving.  While others are stressed out over trussing and basting and dressing but not stuffing, I’m relaxed because all my ham has to do is reheat, or not, and it’s ready to serve.  What’s another benefit of being a TFZ? I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to prep a bird for the oven so I get to enjoy a few extra hours of sleep on a day off. And maybe my favorite perk of being TFZ is that my lack of allegiance to the main dish spills over to the side dishes.  One year I may serve chipotle mashed sweet potatoes and green bean casserole.  The next year, they might be nowhere to be seen.  It’s not that we don’t like them it’s just that there are too many good dishes to lock myself into any.  I don’t like a set menu anymore than I like roasting up a Butter Ball.

So while there’s always a chair at the table for guests, and if you’re in the neighborhood I do hope you’ll stop by, please check your expectations at the door.  Or at least satisfy the turkey and cranberry sauce cravings before you come over.

And if it’s possible, can you sneak me in some dressing?  Nobody besides us has to know and that’s the one traditional Thanksgiving dish that I really miss.

Carrot Puree

Adapted from The Boathouse

BAH Note:  I pulled this off my UnTurkey Day menu at the last minute.  My cooking collaborator requested the chipolte mashed sweet potatoes.  Since she was bringing the good stuff (pie, deviled eggs, and green bean casserole) I did not want to jeopardize their presence at the table.   This recipe appeared in the Summer chapter of The Boathouse cookbook.  Don’t let that keep you from making this anytime the mood strikes you.  It’s slightly sweet and very buttery, which knows no season.  The book said this serves 6 to 8 people.  I can not confirm that detail since The Mistah and I gobbled all of this down by ourselves.

  • 9 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • kosher salt

Cover the carrots and onion with water in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the carrots are very tender.  Drain and transfer the carrots and onion to a food processor.  Add the butter and puree until smooth.  Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste.

{printable recipe}

Michael Symon’s Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese and I have a long history together. I grew up with the blue boxed variety and then moved into the realm of frozen cheesy pasta goodness.  Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but in a pinch both Stouffer’s and Trader Joe’s have a mighty fine frozen mac and cheese product.  And I suspect that someone, somewhere, has passed one of these off as homemade.  I’m not saying I’ve ever done that.  I’m just speculating that it has happened.  The thing about that is as easy as frozen mac and cheese is, homemade is not much more work.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I boil water?
  • Can I carefully measure out hot cooking water?
  • Can I pour cream into a saucepan cook it down?
  • Can I shred cheese?
  • Can I mix together pasta, cream, cheese, and cooking water?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can make macaroni and cheese.  And not just any mac and cheese.  This is Michael Symon’s mac and cheese (MSmac).  With no disrespect to the recipes I’ve tried from Martha, Ina, and Deb, this might just be the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made.  Why is that?

First: I prefer stovetop mac and cheese over one that is oven baked. MSmac goes directly from stovetop to plate so my mac and cheese needs can be met in no more time than it takes to make the sauce and cook the pasta.

Second: I don’t want to spend $$$$ on three, four, or five different cheeses.  MSmac calls for one cheese and while it’s fancier than American or Cheddar, it won’t break the week’s food budget.

Third: MSmac has a rich, silky cheese sauce.  There are no lumps, clumps, or globs to dampen my mac and cheese enjoyment.

Fourth: MSmac has bacon.  Does that really require an explanation?

Fifth: There really isn’t a fifth reason since bacon trumps anything else I could say.

I first discovered MSmac thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life.  She wrote about it and I knew that it would not be long before MSmac and I found ourselves alone together.  It was our destiny to find one another across the Intewebs.  And let me tell you, destiny does not like to wait.  Now that destiny has brought me together with MSmac, I don’t know what could ever tear us apart.  This is what I want when all the little things in my day go wrong.  This is how I want to console myself when the Universe is conspiring against me.  This is my definition of comfort food.

Perhaps MSmac is right for you?

Disclaimer:  Side effects of MSmac are mild to moderate and include eating it straight from the pot and licking cheese sauce off of serving utensils.  Consult professional help for sauces requiring 30 minutes or more to reduce.

Mac & Cheese

Adapted from Chef Michael Symon

BAH Note: I’ve scaled this down because having the full recipe’s worth of this in my house is dangerous.  In my opinion, this is best served as a side so you can enjoy a smaller serving and not feel completely wicked.  But it can just as easily be your main course.  You’ll want to be sure to use a nonstick saucepan and watch your heat so that the cream doesn’t scorch or boil over.

BAH Tip:  I’m bad at guestimating when liquids have reduced, so to check I carefully poured the hot cream into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup to gauge my progress.  It’s really about the volume of the cream more than it is about how long it takes.  Just be patient and don’t rush the process.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 pound bacon, fried, drained, and crumbled
  • 1/2 pound short pasta
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Bring cream and rosemary to a low boil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Keep at a low boil, stirring frequently, until reduced by half and thickened, approximately 25 minutes.

While the cream is reducing, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta.

When the cream has reduced, add the pasta and grated Gruyere and stir to combine.  Add pasta water until the sauce is as loose as you like.  Stir in the crumbled bacon, taste for seasoning, and add salt to taste.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes

Flashback Friday


The following originally appeared on 8/11/08 at Exit 51.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes

Some thoughts on our South Beach journey, now into its 10th day.

My desire to bring the camera into the kitchen is not so strong these days.  I’m not yet on friendly terms with these recipes.  I don’t know what to expect from them – will they misbehave?  So I’m more focused on trying to figure them out.  Hopefully as we stumble across ones that become favorites, I’ll be more gung-ho to capture the moments.

Also, all the prep that goes into getting ahead of the curve absolutely wrecks my kitchen.  I prefer a somewhat orderly approach to cooking.  Instead, my weekend cooking days have seen stacks and stacks of dishes on every available horizontal surface.  By the time I get all the week’s “snacks” prepped, it’s time to start fixing an actual meal.  And then all those dishes have to get cleaned up, and oh look, time to start pulling things out for dinner.  It’s a weary cycle right now.  My little dishwasher has gotten more use in the last ten days than ever before, sometimes running twice a day (but it is a really teeny tiny dishwasher). Continue reading “Flashback Friday – I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mashed Potatoes”