What’s In Your Repertory? (Empty The Refrigerator Edition)

My spouse and I like to cook — a lot.  She’s a former pro, which helps, and I love food and find in cooking a kind of empty-mind release, so there are a lot of nights on which we make a pretty complicated meal.

And then there are the other evenings: we want good stuff, but it’s eight or so, and we don’t want eat at ten, or we’re just tired, or it’s too f**king hot, or we’ve been dealing with the sprout in ways that have consumed all our attention or whatever.

That was last night.  There wasn’t anything onerous, but me working on the book and she on a very tricky design, and the need to take a bike ride through the nicest late afternoon we’ve seen in a while, and this and that and then some more pushed us past the “let’s build a recipe” opportunity.

So we picked up a really pretty bone-in rib steak and set out to produce a meal that wouldn’t take that much longer to put together than the cooking time for the meat.

It turned out great — my other half roasted some late season corn on top of the stove, to be incorporated in a corn-and-peppers-and-onions relish; there was some farmer’s market broccoli rabe, quickly sauteed, and we got the steak right, done to a really nice medium rare, and given ten minutes to rest.

But my point in all this — and I do have one — is that the cherry on top, as it were, was a sauce for the steak that doesn’t come from any cookbook or online recipe. Instead, it just kind of emerged one evening as I was throwing some stuff together, and has gotten a little refined, and has now become a go-to.

It started from a simple garlic oil, the kind you put on pasta w. a bunch of cheese when you don’t want to cook at all.  Say, two or three cloves, depending on the monstrousness of your garlic bulb, finely chopped and dumped in a couple of teaspoons of hearty olive oil and some salt.  I use a tiny ceramic coated cast iron saucepan inherited from some long ago group apartment; anything small and heavy is great.

I put the pan over very low heat: the goal is to stew the garlic, not to fry it.  After a minute or two, I add some finely chopped shallot — about half a bulb, more or less the same volume as garlic, or at least not too much more than that.  Again, stew (or poach, if you prefer) over low heat until the shallots are nice and soft.  I often toss in some fresh thyme at this point.

Then I add two or three pappadew peppers — the pickled, kind of sweet red ones — again, finely chopped, and let them warm through.  Once the whole mix is up to temperature and nicely blending, I add between half and a full teaspoon each of whole grain mustard and prepared horseradish.  I taste, add a little maple syrup to give it that slightly sweet flavor I think goes great in a steak sauce, adjust again (had to add a little lemon last night, as I overdid it on the syrup pour), give it a stir, and call it done.

I have no idea where that came from; it may be just that I was looking at the inside of my fridge one evening and saw the necessary ingredients. But it’s dead simple and the bee’s knees — and it is a kind of all purpose thang too (it makes a great light pasta sauce on soba, for example).  Try it. To use the phrase every Hollywood mogul employs to say “f**k you”…

…trust me.

And with that, given it’s Sunday, and we may want to spend more than ninety seconds not utterly consumed by disasters, natural or political, how about a thread on cool stuff to eat you just made up.  And who cares if your delight might repulse the vast majority of humanity? If you invented it and like it, share it.

And, hell, this is an open thread, so anything else you’ve conjured out of the stray corners of your mind, (especially if its an invention in any domain of which you are ordinately proud).

Image: Adriaen van Utrecht, Banquet Still Life1644

No-Politics Open Thread

I had extra peaches from the Farmers’ Market, and I just needed them in something cakey. This is the New York Times’s classic plum torte, but with peaches. The crumbs I’ve tasted are good.

And I am SO tired of politics for a while. What are you doing that is delicious or fun?

For What We Are About To Receive…

The arc of the universe bends slowly, but, thank FSM, it bends away from stuff like this:

This comes via Vintage Bug and was, it seems, something of a Twitter sensation about a year ago.  I missed it then, but am delighted to discover this glorious anti-personnel dish now.

It comes, as explained at the link, from a promotional recipe pamphlet from the Doughnut Corporation of America (who knew?–ed.).  Lots more glorious horrors to be found in that post.  Donut Rarebit is a particular glory/transgression (guaranteed to make “your menfolk [sic] ask for seconds”).

Anyhow, it’s reassuring, sort of, that for all the genuine horrors and random acts of cruelty that adorn our days, American food possibilities have streched in ways that ensure our children will never have to confront donuts engaged in such unnatural acts (except they will, no doubt, ironically, and aiming to smack the gobs of those prior generations who did so much to rescue the nation from ’50s cuisine).

With that, a picture of a happier table…

…and an invitation to adorn this open thread with the most extraordinary back-in-the-day culinary atrocities you’ve encountered.  For me — it’s a tie between my mother’s creamed corn fritters (which I loathed with a passion that only 6 year-olds can maintain, leading to truly epic dinner table battles), and a marshmellow topped jello concoction served to me at a Thanksgiving dinner in Hong Kong in 1967.  I don’t remember quite what made it so thoroughly repulsive, but we were guests at neighbors from Utah, and that dish was part of home to them, and my parents made it damn clear that I had to choke my portion down or else.  I am scarred.

Image: Pieter Breugel the Elder, The Peasant Wedding, 1566-69

If You’ve Got ‘Em, Smoke ‘Em (The Chicken Chronicles, Chapter [N])

Some of you may recall I have a roast chicken obsession.  Been a while since we’ve talked about my problem here, but now’s the time.

Yesterday I mashed together a couple of recipes to come up with this:

That would be Peruvian/beer can chicken, smoked on Weber grill.

The Peruvian stuff is here.  Doubled the marinade for the two chickens.  Spooned it all over under the skin; rubbed the left-overs on the outside.

Took two beer cans, drank half the contents of each,* and  proceeded as directed here: putting the half-empty cans in the cavity, and setting both chickens upright, using the legs to make a tripod. (Forgot this bit: I let the chickens rest (not vertically) for about three hours coming up to room temperature from the fridge before shoving the beer can up their butts and getting ready to sit them on the fire.)

Then: about a chimney full of good charcoal (lump hardwood), a few more chunks once I dumped the chimney out.  When the coals were red with just a grey rim, I tossed on two handfuls of soaked wood chips; made sure the whole smokey mass was to one side of the grill; placed the cooking grated and set the chickens on the cool side of the Weber with their backs to the coals.

Next, I covered the Weber, with the air holes in the lid almost completely open, and let ’em go.  I checked them first at about 15 minutes, and again ten minutes later, when I shut the air vent down a little — maybe to two-thirds open — in a probably feckless gesture at getting a little more smoke.  About ten minutes after that, they were done — in the state you see in the photo above.

I also made the cilantro-feta green sauce from the first link, which I can’t recommend too highly; it’s kind of like a creamy chimichurri.  The other minor note: it’s worth picking up the Peruvian chile pastes.  I tried doing this with substitutes and it just doesn’t come out with the same pop.

In any event, when we got the chicken to the table it was, by general consensus, simply the best chicken we’d ever had.  The Peruvian flavor was present, but not overwhelming; ditto the smoke.  The thigh meat was perfect and yet the breast was not overdone.  It was as moist as any bird I’ve ever had — I’m guessing the combination of the vertical cooking position and the moisture from the beer does some kind of magic.

In the midst of the holy hell that is daily life, I have to say it was a pure pleasure to try something new (to me) and have it come out just right, better than imagined.

(We were cooking for very good friends, and the rest of the meal was not shabby either.  I’ll save the salmon bacon post for later.)

Anyway, the thread is open, but I’d like to know if any of y’all want to share any of your similar experiences:  something you cooked or ate that gave you inordinate pleasure.

Over to you, jackals-with-bibs.

*Of the two, the Snaggle Tooth Bandana IPA was really nice.



I’d Like Two Supreme Leader Combos, A Glorious Leader With Cheese And A Side Of Kimche, And Supersize the Soju!

The intelligence estimate of what Kim Jong Un is and is not willing to negotiate has leaked! NBC has the details:

A new U.S. intelligence assessment has concluded that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons any time soon, three U.S. officials told NBC News — a finding that conflicts with recent statements by President Donald Trump that Pyongyang intends to do so in the future.

President Trump is continuing to pursue a nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un even though the CIA analysis, which is consistent with other expert opinion, casts doubt on the viability of Trump’s stated goal for the negotiations, the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” said one intelligence official who read the report, which was circulated earlier this month, days before Trump canceled the originally scheduled summit.

In an odd twist, a list of potential concessions by North Korea in the CIA analysis included the possibility that Kim Jong Un may consider offering to open a Western hamburger franchise in Pyongyang as a show of goodwill, according to three national security officials.

Does The Trump Doctrine of “I will be treated fairly or else” play a role in all this? Yes it does!

It suggests Kim is interested in a peaceful gesture to an American president whose love of fast-food burgers is well known — and who, during the 2016 campaign, had said he wanted to talk nukes over a burger with the North Korean leader.

And I’ll also need an Eternal President of the DPRK happy meal too!

Open thread.