Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hobbit Dinner

This is a recipe/dinner idea that I've pulled out occasionally since I lived in Chicago and became obsessed with the Lord of the Rings movies.  Shut up.

Hobbits eat well.  And often.  Remember Weathertop?  Of course you do.  Tomatoes? Nice crispy bacon?  A brace of coneys?  And don't even get me started on the deluxe DVD edition bonus scene with Samwise's special box of seasoned salt, which he was saving just in case they happened to roast a chicken en route to Mordor.  Frodo laughed his smug little patrician laugh at Sam, BUT THAT KIND OF DEDICATION IS WHAT ULTIMATELY SAVED HIS SORRY ASS.

Ahem.  So if you want to eat like a hobbit.  Here's what you do:

Buy a cast-iron skillet.  Seriously.  This will change your life, and I'm pretty sure the hobbits used one. So, authenticity right?  We cooked some locally-raised SAGE-PORK BREAKFAST SAUSAGES. But any kind of non-Italian sausage will do, I think.  Also, cook them in BUTTER.  You will of course season them with SALT and PEPPER, but also some SMOKED PAPRIKA, because as we've recently learned, you simply cannot go wrong.  When they've cooked enough, add some MUSHROOMS and YELLOW ONIONS, preferably from Farmer Maggot's crop, because HOBBITS LIKE TO STEAL.

Meanwhile, why don't you mash some POTATOES?  However you like to do this is fine by me.  Tonight we used two big russet potatoes, with a tablespoon of BUTTER, a splash of HALF AND HALF, and some crumbled BLUE CHEESE.

An essential second side dish is so easy AN ORC COULD DO IT.  Just take a couple of large, ripe TOMATOES. (we used some heirloom, ugli tomatoes).  Cut out the top part, and slice in half horizontally.  Then cover with more crumbled BLUE CHEESE, and stick them under the broiler until the cheese gets toasty.

"Even you couldn't say no to that." -- S. Gamgee

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hungarian Sausage & Cabbage Soup

First, before we get to the soup, I would like to apologize for taking so long to update this blog. I have been abstaining from the online social media world in 2011, as much as possible at least, and this blog has been neglected as a by-product. If you haven't eaten anything delicious yet this year, well, MY BAD.

But I'm here to fix that (hooray!), even if I have no photographs to prove to you that what I'm about to tell you should be received as gospel in your kitchen. Faith, people.

A couple weeks ago, I had a bowl of this soup at the little cafe where I'm attending grad school. It's called "Donna's", and Donna is an amazing cook, plain and simple. And this soup was the best of the best. I distracted her with a little satisfied-customer flattery in order to divine a couple ingredients, and then sought to make my own at home.

How easy is this soup to make? None more easy. Melt a tablespoon or two of UNSALTED BUTTER in your soup pot. Nicely done. Then add some CHICKEN STOCK and stir until the butter fully melts. Meanwhile, you'll have some shredded GREEN CABBAGE, or if you're like me and don't want to buy a whole head of cabbage, which is way too freaking much for this recipe, half of one of those little round containers of BRUSSEL SPROUTS, washed and quartered. Also, a thinly sliced (but not minced), YELLOW ONION. Throw this in the pot, with a healthy amount of SMOKED PAPRIKA, and a hundred or so CARAWAY SEEDS. Seriously though, you can put a lot of those in. Grind some BLACK PEPPER into the pot too. See if I care.

Ummm.... put a lid on it. Let the cabbage and onions cook down. Then add some more stock, a couple of diced POTATOES, a can of DICED TOMATOES, and a pound of SMOKED SAUSAGE (or "kielbasa" if you prefer, fancypants).

That is it. You probably won't even need salt. Wow.

So, about cutting down on ├╝ber-pervasive online social media websites, I just have two things to say:

1. It's time for everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, to admit to ourselves and each other, that Ronald Reagan was not a very good president, or even a good one. He had a funny little voice though, and that may well be his best legacy.
2. I had a dream last night that I dropped acid and it made me talk very, very fast.

Whew! Had to get that out. You're welcome.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Leftover Adventures, Issue No. 2

Shepherd's Pie!

God bless shepherds. They're out in the Montana wilderness in rain and snow, drinking and loving, dodging lightning and driving sheep, and for what? For Randy Quaid to kick them out on their asses and send them back to Michelle Williams and Anne Hatha
way. The nerve! Still, they find the time to take some basic kitchen ingredients and whip them into something classic, quick, and passionately satisfying.

For this recipe, I used some leftover GROUND PORK and GROUND BEEF from when Wife of Mighty Bay Leaf made me birthday spaghetti and meatballs. I also had some BACON in the fridge. So I chopped up the bacon cooked it in a pan until it was almost good and crispy, then I added the ground mea
ts, and added BLACK PEPPER and MADRAS CURRY POWDER. It smelled pretty good I tell you what. When the meat was cooked through, I poured out the liquid and saved it for later. Then I added a jar of BEEF GRAVY to the pan. I'd theretofore never used gravy in shepherd's pie, so you might call that a Jack Twist. Then I added more curry powder. Finally, I poured the meatiness into a Pyrex 8x8 casserole dish.

Meanwhile, I mashed a couple Yukon gold POTATOES with some BUTTER and a splash of HALF AND HALF. I also chopped a medium YELLOW ONION and cooked it in the same pan I cooked the meats, with a little bit of the reserved liquid.

On top of the ground beef/pork/bacon, I put a strained can of SWEET CORN, then the onions, then the mashed potatoes. On top of this action, I added some chopped fresh PARSLEY, SHREDDED PARMESAN CHEESE, and some BREAD CRUMBS. I baked this in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for
about 20 minutes.

Shepherd's pie, I wish I knew how to quit you.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Roast Chicken of 2010

This December 31st, The Mighty Bay Leaf and Wife Of Mighty Bay Leaf are foregoing the festivities, ball-drops and what-have-you, and kicking it at home with the dog and a Yankee Magazine recipe magazine, Christmas courtesy of Sister Of Mighty Bay Leaf.

Behold modified recipes! Rather than give you an ingredient list, I'll just all-caps what you need:

Our main course was a roast CHICKEN, a dish that became a favorite of ours in 2010. At the behest of the good folks at Yankee, we plopped the BIRD straight onto our VEGETABLES, rather than on a rack, though we swapped out turnips and beets, both anathema to yours truly, for multi-colored CARROTS and a giant PARSNIP that looked more like a mandrake root out of the film adaptation of The Chamber of SECRETS. Don't even pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

So you roughly chop some CELERY, and the aforementioned vegetables, and place them in the roasting pan with some ORANGE wedges and ROSEMARY stalks, as well as a dab of VEGETABLE STOCK. Don't forget to SALT and PEPPER that action too!

Meanwhile, you're going to stuff your 4 lb chicken with orange slices and rosemary stalks. "There's rosemary coming out of that chicken's butt!" If you complete this step properly, your own significant other will exclaim this just as you're about to carve it. Oh, and as a side note--if you have access to a local, free-range chicken, The Mighty Bay Leaf highly recommends it.

Rub your chicken down with some OLIVE OIL, and salt and pepper liberally. If you're more into genetically enhanced, factory-farm produced chicken-animals, you may season it conservatively. Just a little political humor for you. Ahem.

Now, the timing for a 4 lb roast chicken is 30 minutes at 450 degrees, then 40 minutes at 350. The Mighty Bay Leaf is not above admitting to you that he cooked his bird upside down, which, don't do. If you like crispy skin, this might not be the proper timing/temperature for you. But I will say that the meat will be perfectly cooked and very, very juicy. So there.

Remove your chicken to the cutting board or wherever you like to cut 'er up. Remove the orange and rosemary from the roasting pan, and strain the stock into a small, hot saucepan. Whisk in a couple tablespoons of BUTTER and a spoonful of FLOUR, which of course becomes HEAVEN, I mean GRAVY. Provided you peeled your vegetables before you roasted them, serve them as a side!

For a second side, we modified another Yankee recipe, and made Curried Butternut Squash. This can be similarly accomplished by peeling and cubing a BUTTERNUT SQUASH, and finely chopping a small SPANISH ONION. You cook these in some VEGETABLE OIL until the onion is translucent (contemporary cookbooks love the shit out of the word "translucent"), and the squash is a little soft. Then you add a BAY LEAF (KAPOW!), CURRY POWDER (we had a little Madras curry powder that we swiped from my moms), CUMIN, and powdered GINGER. Stir it around 'til you're happy with it, then add some VEGETABLE STOCK, but not too much, cover it with a lid, and let it simmer for a while. Then discard the bay leaf, add some RAISINS and toasted WALNUTS (I forget what kind of nut Yankee recommended, but I just went with walnuts instead 'cause we had 'em). Yankee Magazine also said to add cooked rice to this, which, no. Don't do that. But when you're finished, feel free to serve with a sprinkling of SCALLIONS.

When you're finished, you'll be that much closer to the New Year, which in your case will probably mean 2012!

Behold the finished plate, and a begging dog!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Mighty Bay Leaf

This post isn't so much a recipe as it is an appreciation of that most humble of ingredients, the bay leaf. That shelf inhabitant that everyone has, and every recipe calls for, but few can guess what it's good for besides exercising the eyes once it's time to fish them out.

However, this year I've come to love the bay leaf as an ingredient of faith. I can't always pick out its flavor but I trust that it's doing something. This might make me a rube, but there are plenty of other things that do too, so no biggie.

Anyway, if you're skeptical or curious as to what exactly a bay leaf or two can do, throw one or two or twelve in the water next time you're boiling pasta, and eat a few plain noodles before dressing them up further. Subtle, but delicious.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Leftover Adventures, Issue No. 1

You will need to have leftover:

Swiss cheese
Cheddar cheese
Heavy cream
Half and half

You will also need:

Chohula chili garlic hot sauce (seriously)
Noodles of some sort
Salt and pepper
Chicken stock

So.... you've got lots of stuff leftover in your fridge from other recipes and who knows when or how you'll get to use them next? I do I do! But forget about measurements here, we're going to wing it.

1. Chop a medium spanish onion and saute in... a lot of butter. A lot of butter is important. At first I just used a little butter, and then it all went away into the onions! I needed more butter. So will you.

2. The reason you need more butter is because you're making a roux. Or something damn close. Take a few spoonfuls of flour and sprinkle them into your onionsandbutter. See? The butter soaks up all the flour and you get a nice little paste-wad/ball of onions.

3. Here's where I effed up for the first time. But feel free to make the same mistakes because it all worked out in the end. I added roughly 2/5 of one of those tiny containers of heavy cream, and began to thin out the rouxball over medium heat. It was still incredibly thick. So I added the same amount of half-and-half. It became thinner glue, but glue nonetheless, and there was no room for cheese. So...

4. I had a small carton of chicken stock. I added this. This thinned it out way too much. I fretted. I sprinkled some nutmeg and hot sauce in there to console myself. Then I began stirring in cubed ham, swiss and cheddar cheese. The cheese slowly melted, but the sauce was still more like soup.

5. So I added 7/8 of a box of dried pasta straight into the pan. And stirred, and stirred, and stirred. I kept it on low heat, with a lid on. And prayed that it wouldn't take 5 hours to cook the noodles. But it didn't, and it was great!

This isn't your grandmother's macaroni and cheese, but only because she's on a low-fat, kosher diet.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cardamom Dinner Rolls

Cardamom Dinner Rolls
adapted from Martha Stewart's website (gasp!)

The Mighty Bay Leaf generally prefers not to bake. Measurements are scary. Chemistry = blah. I messed this Martha Stewart recipe up real quick and had to run to the store on Christmas Eve to get more butter. But behold! Like the Star of Bethlehem, these glossy dinner rolls pictured on the right are LEGIT, actual dinner rolls that I made all by myself. It's a good thang.

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • So.... yeast. Neat. You just shake it onto the warm water in a bowl and wait for five minutes, 'til it stinks and foams.

    Next, you mix all of the..... oh screw it. Just click the link to Martha's recipe and add cardamom to the dry mixture. Also, you can sprinkle cardamom on top of the rolls after the egg wash, just before baking. Next time, I'd even sprinkle a little sugar.

    The recipe says this yields 30, but I got 29 from it because I'm not exact and also because THAT'S HOW I ROLL.