Chinese New Year 2019 Celebration

With Chinese New Year coming up on Tuesday, February 5th (Year of the Pig, if anyone is interested), this Sunday was our New Years celebration.

I tend to maybe go a little overboard when I do themed meals…I always want to make sure there is something for everyone, and that no one walks away hungry. Although, really, I’m not sure anyone leaves our house hungry!

Details are important to me, and we usually put on background music that is appropriate for the cuisine. Brian asked if I’d like to listen to Chinese music, and at first I was like, “Ugh, no”, but then I said “You know, if you can find some relaxing Chinese music, like if you go to a nice Chinese restaurant and you hear it in the background.”  He found just the right channel and it reminded me of being in a spa. Louie seemed to like it…

Louis Relaxing

Place settings that I bought in Chinatown in San Francisco in probably 2009 created just the right tablescape.

I started planning the meal probably in the middle of the week. Lots of research and figuring out what to fix. I knew I would make Crockpot Beef with Broccoli because it’s good, easy and I’ve made it before. I always seem to Google for a recipe whenever I make it, and I’m not sure I’ve made the exact same recipe more than once. But, I found this recipe at Damn Delicious, and it’s a keeper.  Couldn’t be easier, and I had all the ingredients on hand anyway. Hardest part was slicing the chuck roast, and that was a cinch after having been gifted some proper chefs knives from a very dear friend. Recipe can be found here – seriously, super easy. And if you don’t have oyster sauce in your fridge, you totally should! At all times!!!

Broccoli Beef

Because one entree didn’t seem to be enough, I started thinking about other options. I’ve made fried rice, but figured with the jasmine rice, we didn’t really need more rice. I’ve also made vegetable lo mein, but for some reason, I was thinking about chicken. I don’t know that I’ve ever had cashew chicken before, but I like chicken and cashews, so what could go wrong? It didn’t take long before I settled on this recipe from Ree Drummond. She’s never led me astray before, and this time was no different. I did substitute red and yellow pepper for the green that the recipe called for. After I completed the recipe, I put it in the crockpot to keep it warm as I worked on other things. I did wait to put the cashews in until about 60 to 90 minutes before serving. The cashews held their shape but were tender. Sliced scallions and sesame seeds served as garnish.

Cashew Chicken

I love Chinese appetizers, and knew I was going to get egg rolls from the store, and thought about crab rangoon or shrimp toast (YUM!). But a person has to know their limits, and I wanted to make a dessert instead.

Dessert was much harder to decide on, as we don’t live in a metropolitan area and the Chinese section in our local groceries is somewhat limited. Some of the recipes were intimidating, others I would’ve needed to plan farther ahead so I could order ingredients from Amazon. I thought about egg tarts, but the last time I made them was a little frustrating. Almond cookies were also a consideration, but I knew I’d be picking up some Fortune Cookies (next time I might try making those myself!). Chinese donuts found on a buffet would’ve been OK if I weren’t scared to death of deep frying things. Then I stumbled on these Easy Chinese Moon Cakes from a link to 10 Easy Desserts on Yummly. Sounded a lot like a thumb print cookie, and bonus, I had all the ingredients (although I did pick up some higher quality strawberry preserves to use). I think this is completely Americanized (no offense to Shirley the contributor)…if I’d had access to some red bean paste, I would’ve been happier. But, they turned out well and were tasty. The only think that I would change in this recipe is to use the egg white that was left over from the yolk in the dough. Wasn’t really impressed with using a yolk for the egg wash, just not visually appealing.

Moon Cakes

Because it just wouldn’t be Sunday dinner without a green salad for me, I decided on Spring Mix (because I always have some on hand anyway) with Mandarins and chow mein noodles (instead of croutons). But what to use for dressing, that was the question. I was inspired by the other flavors in the main dishes so I started with a base of avocado oil, used rice vinegar, adding a dash of soy sauce, fresh minced garlic and ginger, and agave to balance the sour. I wish I could give measurements, but the only one I know for sure is that I used 2 small cloves of garlic. What can I say – some of my best cooking is completely impromptu. Added some scallions and chopped red pepper for color, and I must say, it was pretty darned good!

Salad with Ginger Dressing

I wanted something special to drink, and love the Lychee martinis from Koi Asian Bistro, so I set out to find canned lychees. But absolutely no place had them. Even Koi didn’t have any to spare to sell me. However, Jewel had fresh lychee nuts, so I picked up about three quarter of a pound and hoped we could figure it out. Brian, being the cocktail master and ever inquisitive being that he is, found a recipe to make the lychee simple syrup, and peeled and pitted them. Aunt Pat, mom and I had the lychee martinis with the first course (mom even let dad eat the lychees that were the garnish in her drink), while Brian had his usual martini. And because we were uncertain how the martinis might turn out, Brian picked up a bottle of Sake and Plum Fu-Ki wine, just in case. We had the wine with the main course, and it was a hit! It was on the sweet side, which for Brian and I is unusual, but it was very pleasant. We saved the sake for a digestif, served at room temperature. Bracing would be an understatement. So we heated it in a carafe submerged in hot water. Better. Warming it even more was even better. Brian was ready to dump the rest of the bottle out, but I’m thinking I could use it still to deglaze while cooking. At any rate, if I never drank sake again (and this was our second attempt), I wouldn’t be upset. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, or our selections have been limited. I can’t even come up with adequate words to describe it…pure grain alcohol is the only thing I can think of!

Here is the menu, just to recap:

Appetizers: Chicken and pork egg rolls, Lychee martinis

Salad: Spring mix with mandarins, red peppers, scallions and chow mein noodles dressed with a ginger and garlic vinegarette

Entrees: Beef with Broccoli and Cashew Chicken, both served with jasmine rice. Plum Fu-Ki wine made a nice pairing

Digestif: Sake

Dessert: Easy Chinese Moon Cakes and Fortune Cookies

It’s a good thing that Chinese New Year only comes around once a year. While none of the recipes were particularly difficult, there was a lot of preparation involved. I’m thankful that I have a husband that also likes to cook and help out in the kitchen. Having someone clean up my messes is so very nice! Not to mention having my own personal bartender. I think I’ll keep him.

Kung Hei Fat Choy, everybody!

Another Detroit Pie and Some Old School Cheese Soup

Weekend of January 5th and 6th, 2019

We had dough left over, so I had another run at Detroit Style Pizza for supper on Saturday Night. I picked up a cheap steel cake pan at the dollar store (made in the USA, yet) earlier in the day, browned some Italian Sausage, and made the sauce.

For the sauce, just crush everything together with a potato masher.

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 T tomato paste
  • 1 pressed clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes

I use the Basic Artisan Pizza Crust Recipe for the dough.

  • 3 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/2tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups (scoop and sweep) unbleached all-purpose flour

This makes enough dough for several pies. I had just enough left to cover the bottom of the pan when stretched. It was much easier to stretch this time, after having rested in the fridge for nearly a week. This is one of the things that I love about the AB5 dough.

I sprayed the bottom of the cake pan, then drizzled olive oil and coated it well. I also sprinkled it with a little corn meal to add to the buttery taste, and pressed dough over bottom of pan. The Monterray Jack cheese (an 8 ounce block, grated) went on next. I got the tip on that from Cook’s Country. They did tests and it came closest to the characteristics of the Wisconsin Brick Cheese that would typically be used in Detroit. The sausage crumbles went on next, then the three iconic stripes of tomato sauce. The pie baked at 500 °F until the cheese was bubbly and brown, about 17 minutes this time.

I was amazed at how easily and quickly this pizza came together, and at how delicious it was. Our grilled pizzas are still my favorite, and we’ll continue to make the Malnati style deep dish from time to time, but I think the Detroits will be our go to, especially to use up leftover dough, and for a quick weeknight meal. I’m anxious to taste a slice of Chef Garibaldi’s again one of these days to see how ours stacks up to the authentic.

For Sunday Dinner, I made cheese soup. The recipe is one of my favorites, and comes from a restaurant in Decatur from the old days, called The Brown Jug. My Sister Marge gave me the recipe years ago and it was one of the first things I ever learned to cook.

Brown Jug Cheese Soup

I sautéed some diced celery and onion, then added them to a crock pot with some veggie and chicken stock (maybe a quart and a half altogether), and a couple 12 ounce bags of frozen mixed vegetables. Once that all got warmed up, I added 5 diced potatoes and 2 diced carrots. Finally, after all of that was cooked through, I added two cans of cream of celery soup and a pound or so of Velveeta cheese. Once everything is melted and combined, it’s ready to serve.

I baked a largish peasant boule with the leftover dough from earlier in the week. Again, the AB5 dough that’s been resting in the fridge for a few days takes on some great characteristics. It almost tastes like a sour dough.

Claudia made a nice salad, and we had Wisconsin Supper Club relishes, including marinated olives, marinated mushrooms and cornichons. The wine was Sharon Weeks’ Cattoo Red, which was just perfect. Later on, Aunt Pat and Caroline picked up some soft serve from DQ to go with Christmas cookies for dessert.

My sons were with us for a little while in the afternoon, and had their soup with a bit of hot sauce. :)

From Chicago to Detroit

Sunday Dinner – 30 December 2018

Chicago and Detroit Pizza

For our last Sunday Dinner of 2018 we made pizza two ways, with a Lou Malnati style Chicago deep dish and our first run at a Detroit style pie.

Inspired by Chef Garibaldi, I’d been wanting to try my hand at Detroit pizza for awhile now. I used my usual dough recipe from AB5. Lacking one of the typical high sided 13 x 9 pans, I used a square cake pan, coating it with cooking spray and olive oil before stretching out the dough. I covered that with shredded Monterrey Jack, and then put the three iconic stripes of sauce across the top.

The sauce was a can of diced tomatoes, some olive oil, two pressed cloves of garlic, a little sugar, salt and pepper, and some oregano and basil – all smashed up with a potato masher. It went into a 500 °F oven for 15 minutes.

The other pie was an old favorite alla Lou Malnati’s, baked in a cast iron skillet.

Malnati Style

Claudia made a marvelous Wulff salad with Balsamic vinaigrette. Wine was a 2016 Sangiovese, for those not drinking Newcastle Ale.

We’d definitely make the Detroit style pizza again. In fact, Claudia said that she actually preferred it today. The sauce was just a bit too garlicky for her taste, and we’ll likely add some Italian sausage next go ’round. It’s nice to add another pizza to our repertoire, and particularly one that is so easy to prepare and quick to bake. I can see this becoming our go-to for weeknights.

Grilled Chicken with Pasta Bake

Sunday Dinner – 9 December 2018

Grilled Chicken with Pasta Bake

This week we grilled chicken on the Genesis and Claudia made a nice pasta bake with Ricotta. Wine was a Calavaras County cuvée from F. Stephen Millier.

We have some white meat and some dark meat fans in the group, and it’s taken me awhile to learn how to cook the leg quarters properly. This time, they turned out perfect. I seasoned them with coarse salt, black pepper, Herbs du Provence, garlic and onion powder, and a little MSG. The grill was set up with the outer burners on medium and the center burner off. The chicken went on the cooler part, in the middle, skin side down at first for about twenty minutes. Then I flipped them and let them cook another twenty minutes indirect. This allows the fat underneath the skin to render. Once the internal temperature was around 170 °F I turned the middle burner on as well, and finished them skin side down over direct heat. This crisped up the skin nicely and brought the temp up to 185 in the thigh. I put the breasts on over direct medium heat (one of the outside burners) as the leg quarters were finishing. The legs came off first to rest, so that we could serve everything as soon as the breasts were done (they cooked about twenty minutes total).

The pasta bake was made with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmigiana, with a red sauce on top. Claudia also made a fresh green salad and steamed some broccoli and cauliflower with garlic. Aunt Pat brought cookies and ice cream for dessert.

Linguine con Vongole

Sunday Dinner – 2 December 2018

Linguine con Vongole

This week, I made Linguini with Clam Sauce, an adaptation of a recipe from my friend, Joe Placido.

If you’re an American of a certain age, it’s very likely that you have heard Giuseppe “Joe” Placido’s voice. In the 1980s, he was the announcer for Chrysler Corporation’s “Guaranteed Rebate” advertising campaign. Lee Iacocca heard Joe’s voice on local Detroit radio, and nabbed him right up as the voice of the campaign.

I met Joe in the mid 1970s when we were both working in Decatur, Illinois at WSOY radio. He introduced me to some great music, and some great food. The first “authentic” Italian cuisine I ever tasted was around the table of he and his wife Jini’s apartment. This is one of my favorite recipes, and one of the first things I attempted to cook on my own.

It starts with a sauté of onions and garlic in butter and olive oil. Then you add some salt, Italian herbs and white pepper. Then the juice of a couple cans of chopped clams, and some white wine. Eventually, you add the clams. I usually add some cream or half and half as well. That, the pasta and shredded Parm, and you’re ready to eat.

We enjoyed this with a lovely salad with raspberry vinaigrette that Claudia made, some pesto stuffed mushrooms, and bread with drizzles of Bahue Olive Oil, herbs and Parm shreds. The wines were Sauvignon Blancs. Aunt Pat brought a coconut cream pie for dessert.

Here are some shots from around the table.

 

Yardbird Chili

Sunday Dinner – 11 November 2018

Yardbird Chili

This week we made chicken and white bean chili for Sunday Dinner.

The recipe came from a co-worker of mine nearly thirty years ago. It was based on a popular menu item from Cody’s Roadhouse in Mattoon, Illinois. I’ve adapted it a bit over the years. My version includes 6 cans of Great Northern beans, 4 cups of chicken stock, some grilled chicken strips, two cans of green chilis, four cloves of garlic, a rough chopped onion, 2 teaspoons of cumin, a teaspoon of oregano, salt, cayenne and white pepper to taste. We serve it with grated Jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

I also made Ro*Tel® Queso Dip, and Cowboy Caviar. Dessert was a mixed berry pie à la Mode. The wine was an excellent D. H. Elliott Petite Sirah.

I love meals like this as the weather turns colder.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Sunday Dinner – 28 October 2018

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This week we tried our hand at an updated version of Chicken Cordon Bleu.

I used the RecipeTin Eats instructions, and they turned out beautiful. These cuts were a little large, so they took some additional time in the oven. Otherwise, I followed the “super easy method” to the letter. The mustard sauce was especially good.

Claudia made mashed potatoes and salad for sides, and I baked a green bean casserole. Wine was a Coloma Zinfandel.

Spicy Artichoke Alfredo

Sunday Dinner – 21 October 2018

Spicy Artichoke Alfredo

Claudia made one of our favorite dishes for Sunday Dinner this week.

Aunt Pat is back with us from her trip out west, and we also were happy to have our son, James, visiting this weekend. Claudia made Fettuccini Alfredo, with marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and chilis. It’s been a family favorite for years. She also cooked broccoli with garlic butter, and made a beautiful green salad.

We started with some antipasti (cheeses, salami, olives, etc.). The wine was Jacqueline Bahue’s delicious Sauvignon Blanc. Aunt Pat provided dessert, a lovely lemon pie from Baker’s Square.

Recipe for the pasta dish to come, if I can talk Claudia into it. :)

Zini al Forno, Salsiccia con Peperoni

Sunday Dinner – 2 September 2018

Baked Ziti

For this Sunday we made Baked Ziti and grilled Italian Sausages with peppers and onions.

I use the Ziti al Forno recipe from the Sopranos Family Cookbook – one of our favorites for years. We also sliced a couple of onions and four bell peppers for the bed underneath the sausages. I put them in an aluminum pan on the grill with olive oil for ten or fifteen minutes, then poured in a bottle of Pinot Noir, and placed the sausages on top. After turning the sausages every five minutes for about half-an-hour, I moved those to the grill grates for a few minutes before bringing the entire pan inside.

Italian Sausages

Claudia and Aunt Pat also prepared a salad, and breaded some zucchini slices with egg wash, bread crumbs and grated cheese that we grilled on the plancha.

Zucchini on the Grill

Everything was delicious. Dessert was a lovely cake that our Cousin Jennifer had brought us earlier this weekend, simply known as “The Cake.”

Pork Chops and Hasselback Bakers

Sunday Dinner -12 August 2018

Pork Chops Hasselback Potaotes

This was a simple, delicious meal. We had some pork chops in the freezer, so I decided to use one of my favorite brines for pork from Vrobel. We were out of Bourbon, so I used dark rum in the brine, and also omitted the glaze.

For the Hasselback Potatoes, we used bakers. I made slits in them 1/8th inch apart, sprayed them with olive oil, and sprinkled with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. They went into a pan on the grill over indirect heat for 30 minutes, then got hit with olive oil again, roasted another 20 minutes, then I put them over direct heat for another 15. I’d put some cloves of garlic in olive oil in the bottom of the pan as well.

The pork chops were on for maybe twenty-five minutes total over direct heat. Claudia cooked some corn that had been put away last year, and made a nice fresh green salad. She also baked a banana cake from scratch earlier in the day for dessert.

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches

Sunday Dinner – 5 August 2018

This week we grilled a bunch of veggies and made sandwiches.

Neither of us can remember precisely when, or why, we started making this particular meal, but we know that it goes back at least a decade to when we were living in Mattoon, Illinois. It’s basically a huge mess of vegetables, grilled in batches and put between bread with cheese and returned to the grill to get gooey.

We included eggplant, Portabello Mushrooms, zucchini, red and orange peppers, red onions and tomato slices. These were all seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Herbs de Provence, and grilled with liberal spritzes of olive oil. Once they were grilled, Claudia and Aunt Pat assembled them with Provolone slices between the halves of three loaves of Italian Bread, and wrapped them in aluminum foil, and then we put them back out on the Weber Genesis to warm through. Datsa Sanguige!

Prepping Sandwiches

We also grilled some halved nectarines for a few minutes, then topped them with Mascarpone, Balsamic Vinegar and honey before taking them out to finish.

Aunt Pat also brought a delicious lemon meringue pie for dessert.

We served a couple of bottles of rosé (once from Lodi and one from France) with the meal. Mrs. Noe and I aren’t huge fanatics for blush wines, but I do like them every now and then in hot weather (which was certainly a feature of this weekend).

Grilled Pizza

Sunday Dinner – 15 July 2018

This week we made pizza for Sunday Dinner. We finally have the process pretty well down.

I made a quick, no cook sauce from two cans of tomato sauce, one can of tomato paste, some oregano, basil, garlic, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. We followed our usual process otherwise, as described in these earlier posts.

Easy Foolproof Grilled Pizza

How to Make Pizza on the Grill

After I par cooked the crusts, Claudia topped one with three cheese blend, another with veggies and another with fresh basil and mozzarella. Then they went back out to the plancha on the Weber Genesis to finish.

The crust this time was the best yet – a perfect combination of crunchy on the outside with a little dense chew inside.

Flavors of Palestine

Sunday Dinner – 10 June 2018

Palestinian Food

This week’s Sunday Dinner was a classic from the Middle East, Maqloubeh.

The passing of Anthony Bourdain prompted feelings of sorrow, followed by a binge of Parts Unknown. One of the first episodes I revisited was his trip to Jerusalem, which also included a segment in Gaza with his Palestinian host, Laila El-Haddad. He was treated to Maqloubeh, a dish of rice, spices and other delicious goodies.

“Maqloubeh” is the Arabic word for “upturned” or “upside-down.” Although family recipes vary greatly, the main ingredients seem to be long-grain rice, eggplant, cauliflower, onions, garlic and lamb (or sometimes chicken). I reviewed seven or eight recipes online, and tried to get to the essence of the dish.

While we were cooking the main course, Claudia served some roasted red-pepper hummus that she’d made earlier, along with crudités and pita chips. I’ll try to goad her into adding the hummus recipe here at some point, but it is basically chick peas, fresh lemon juice, tahini, garlic, a roasted red pepper and some other seasonings. If you’ve only ever had store bought hummus, you are missing out. She also roasted some chick peas with spices in the oven on a cookie sheet. Those were super tasty and surprisingly crunchy.

We had a lot of help from Aunt Pat in the kitchen this week, as usual. The prep work on these dishes was pretty time consuming, so it was great to have another capable pair of hands at the cutting board all afternoon.

مقلوبة

Maqloubeh Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Pieces
  • 2 Eggplants, Cut Into Cubes
  • 2 Cauliflower, Quartered Then Pulled Into Florets
  • 2 Yellow Onions, Rough Chopped
  • Several Cloves of Garlic, Smashed
  • 2 Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 2 Cups Basmati Rice
  • Toasted Almonds
  • Yogurt with Mint and Seasoned Salt

Seasonings:

  • Coarse Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic Powder

Although the ingredients are usually either fried or roasted, I decided to cook them on the Weber Genesis. After seasoning 4 leg quarters, they went on the indirect side of the grill for 40 minutes, then were moved directly over the burner for another ten minutes to finish. Internal temperature was between 175° and 185° F when I took them off. The boneless, skinless chicken breasts got the same treatment, except for a shorter length of time (and more time over direct heat) until they registered 165° F. We covered them with a tent of foil until time to serve.

The eggplant and cauliflower pieces received the same seasoning, and were grilled with a little olive oil on a veggie sheet for a bit, just to soften them up and get a little charred flavor into them.

We hit a 6 quart pan with olive oil spray, and Claudia placed a layer of tomato slices on the bottom. At this point, the traditional version of the dish would get a layer of meat, but we had so many vegetables that we decided at the last minute to keep the chicken out and serve it alongside. We added some of the grilled cauliflower and eggplant, and some onions and garlic that Claudia had sautéed. Then a cup of brown Basmati rice, the rest of the veggies, and one more cup of rice went into the pot, and finally 4 1/2 cups of stock with a little Turmeric mixed in. We covered it and boiled it for ten minutes and then simmered for another thirty.

I was nervous when it came time to invert the pot.

Mqloubeh

As you can see from the photo, it did collapse a bit on one side. Next time I’ll do my best to leave it sit awhile longer once inverted before removing the pot. I think I would also heat the stock before adding it to the pot next time, to give the boil a head start. Otherwise, there isn’t a single thing I would plan to change.

I toasted some almond slices in a dry skillet, and sprinkled them over the top. We served the Maqloubeh and chicken with some Greek Yogurt (I’d stirred in some dried mint at my friend Mazen’s suggestion, along with a little Lawry’s). It was a delicious combination. Claudia also made a traditional Arab salad to go with.

سلطة خيار الطماطم

Cucumber Tomato Salad

  • 3 cucumbers, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • several cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed dried mint
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1-2 lemons
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mazen suggested that we add thyme to the salad, but it slipped my mind, so we’ll have to try that next time. This was one of the most vibrant, fresh-tasting salads I’ve ever eaten. Just delightful.

We served a couple bottles of my favorite bargain wine, Yellow Tail Shiraz, with the meal. It was a perfect compliment.

بسبوسة

Basbousa

When we were planning the meal, Claudia asked “what’s for dessert?” This is something I always seem to neglect. After a little research we settled on Basbousa, which is a yellow cake made from Semolina flour. She used this recipe for the cake, and topped it with a cinnamon simple syrup and coconut shreds as described here. It turned out just lovely as well.

Basbousa

The music stream for the day was a traditional Arabic and Andalusian station from Pandora, which added a special dimension to our gathering.

We eat to live, we eat to remember, but we also eat to learn. One of the things that has always impressed me about Bourdain is the way he seemed to foster such deep connections with people wherever he traveled. He wasn’t just a journalist conducting an interview. He was a friend, sharing a meal and some conversation.

We see our own Sunday Dinners as opportunities to celebrate cultures, times and places that we likely might not consider or examine otherwise. It was particularly nice to approximate and experience the aromas and tastes of a Palestinian kitchen this week. We’d not delved much into the food of the Eastern Mediterranean. Now that we have, I’ll be anxious now to find other dishes typical of the region.

Long live Palestine.

Souvlaki

Sunday Dinner – May 27th 2018

For this Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we had one of our favorite kabob dishes, Souvlaki (which literally means “little skewers” in Greek).

The recipe comes from The Spruce. I found it after we attended the Annunciation Church picnic a few years ago, and loved the flavors. We’ve had these maybe half a dozen times in the years since, and they’re always delicious. We served the pork in pitas with cabbage shreds and yogurt Tzatziki, using a recipe from the same site. The Greek-inspired flavors were echoed in a pasta salad recipe from the Hamilton Beach food blog.

For dessert, I tried my hand at classic Southern banana pudding. I’ve made custards a few times in the past (mostly for homemade ice cream), but this was my first attempt at pudding proper. Although I made a rookie mistake (misreading tablespoons versus teaspoons for the vanilla), it turned out fine. Claudia made fresh whipped cream to go on top, which certainly helped. We served it in vintage Currier & Ives bowls that had belonged to Claudia’s Grandma Wulff, bringing back fond memories of her Sunday Dinners long ago.

One of the nice things about this meal is that everything could be prepared the day before. It only took about twenty minutes to grill the skewers, so the rest of the day was spent enjoying the company of our regular Sunday crew.

We opened a very nice Rosé of Pinot Noir from Evangelos Bagias before the meal, and served a hearty Scott Peterson Rumpus Chaos (a cuvée of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchset and Grenache) with the food.

Monday’s meal will be more traditional American fare including cheeseburgers, three bean salad – and one of my childhood favorites, a cherry salad that my mom used to make. Here’s wishing everyone happiness, health, peace and safety as we observe Memorial Day 2018.

First Long Cook of the Year: Spare Ribs

Sunday Dinner – Mothers Day – 13 May 2018

Weber Kettle Smoke

For dinner on Mothers Day, along with the regular Sunday Dinner crew, we were pleased to welcome Claudia’s cousin Dan and his partner who were visiting from Florida. I prepared St. Louis Style spareribs, baked beans and coleslaw. Dan brought macaroni salad and Aunt Pat made an Angel Food Cake with macerated strawberries. Claudia also prepared some nice appetizers, including skewers of fruit, veggies and cheese. We also grilled some small peppers stuffed with cream cheese filling.

I got the grill going early, around 7:30 AM, and had the ribs on the rack by 8. I’d removed the silver skin and rubbed them the night before with my usual mix of Kosher salt, black pepper, Turbinado sugar, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. The grill was set up with ten unlit coals on each side of a water pan, five lit coals on top of each side, and some chunks of apple and hickory. Bottom vents started with two open and one closed, then I damped one as needed to keep the temp at 250°F. The sweet smoke smelled heavenly as we enjoyed our morning coffee.

I had knocked out both the coleslaw and crock pot baked beans on Saturday evening, but there still seemed little time for relaxation. Attending the ribs meant monitoring the temperature, adding coals as needed, and mopping the slabs every hour with a combination of apple juice, coffee and Schlitz from a spray bottle. We also had to attend some last minute gift wrapping for the moms, and Claudia and our daughter did some tidying and cleaning to prepare for company.

The cook was a classic 3/2/1 (three hours on a rack over smoke, two hours wrapped in foil, one final hour over smoke again to finish) and the ribs turned out great. The rest of the meal was fabulous as well, likewise the conversation.

In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we failed to take food photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination. :)

We had a bottle of Alma Andina Malbec first, which was just sort of alright. Then I opened a California Zin from F. Stephen Millier. It was scrumptious.

It’s hard to beat a long cook, particularly when you’re sharing the results with good company. I’m especially appreciative of time spent with Claudia’s family, and the opportunity to honor her (and her mom) again this Mothers Day. She has created an exceptionally happy and loving home. Very literally a dream come true.

Cinco de Mayo

Sunday Dinner – 6 May 2018

Sunday Dinner this week was filled with some delicious flavors of Mexico.

  • Homemade Guacamole
  • Shrimp Ceviche
  • Green Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
  • Pineapple Black Bean Enchiladas
  • Chili Bean Stuffed Peppers
  • Tres Leches Cake
  • Margaritas
  • Micheladas
  • Rumchata

Recipes to come. :)

Italian Chicken

Sunday Dinner – 29 April 2018

From Claudia’s Facebook Post:

Super busy day…Cancer Survivor lunch and KVTA play and holding down the fort while Mr. Noe is away on business. But don’t worry, we didn’t skip our Sunday dinner! Just had to be more creative with the timing! Italian chicken sandwiches, Italian potato salad and lettuce salad with a California red blend. And my mom supplied chocolate cupcakes (from scratch) with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. Oh, and I made my own Pink Squirrel, although it wasn’t as good as my husband’s!

Description and recipes to come.

Cassoulet

Sunday Dinner – 15 April 2018

Cassoulet

This is a dish that I’ve been wanting to attempt for some time, but the prospect of finding duck and preparing the confit was daunting. Fortunately, I ran across this article from the Serious Eats Food Lab explaining that cassoulet shouldn’t be prescriptivist, but is actually a “medieval peasant dish designed to make do with whatever was around.” Writer and Chef J. Kenji López-Alt explains that with so much flavor packed into the cooking liquid you can use chicken and won’t miss the duck. Moreover, in head-to-head tests fresh poultry was actually juicier in cassoulet than the preserved duck, since it was cooked only once.

I did take some other liberties with the recipe, substituting thick cut bacon for the salt pork, and leaving the vegetables in. I also left out the cloves and added a few other spices, and some diced tomatoes.

I started at about 9 AM, frying up a pound of hickory smoked bacon in the Dutch Oven. Once it was removed, I seasoned four chicken leg quarters with pepper, and cooked them in the bacon fat, two at a time, skin side down first for 6 minutes, then the other side for 3 minutes or so. Next I browned some mild Italian sausages.

I drained all but a few tablespoons of fat from the pot, and sautéed chopped onion, carrot and celery, adding a few cloves of minced garlic after a few minutes. Just a little red wine went in to deglaze, then came a pound of small white beans that had been soaking overnight in salt water, some bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and paprika, a can of diced tomatoes, and a quart of chicken stock with three packs of Knox unflavored gelatin dissolved in it. This simmered, covered on the range top for 45 minutes.

The bacon and sausages went in next, and the chicken nestled on top before the pot was placed in a 300°F oven, uncovered. After a couple hours, I kicked the temp up to 350, and checked every half hour, disturbing the crust with a spoon. The chicken was plenty done after four hours, so I pulled it off to a plate and let everything else cook for one more hour before serving.

I don’t think I’ve ever tasted more tender, juicy or flavorful chicken, and this grownup version of “beanie weenies” is the heart and soul of comfort food – perfect for a dreary, chilly Sunday. We served the meal with Wulff Salad, a couple baguettes, and a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux.

For dessert, Claudia made chocolate mousse with fresh whipped cream. Absolutely incredible.

Chocolate Mousse

When I think of “French Cooking” in the abstract, it seems so high tone and refined and snooty. But it turns out that my favorite French dishes (coq au vin, beef bourguignon, cassoulet) are all hearty peasant food. This meal did take some planning and quite a bit of work to prepare (more than two hours before it was assembled and in the oven), but it was certainly worth the trouble.

Our favorite local butchers, Southside Meats, do carry duck, so I’ll be tempted to try it next time. Although at 99 cents a pound, the chicken will be pretty hard to beat. :)

Steakhouse and Supper Club Fare

Sunday Dinner – 8 April 2018

Supper Club Relishes

This Sunday was Claudia’s parents’ wedding anniversary, so we decided to celebrate by grilling steaks.

The rest of the family went to a children’s production of our local theater group. I wasn’t interested in this particular show, so I stayed home and prepared dinner.

Wisconsin Supper Club CookbookThe main course menu was t-bones, baked potatoes, asparagus and salad, but I also decided to do a traditional “supper club relish tray.” The Easter Bunny brought me a copy of Mary Bergin’s Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, and there were several recipes I could barely wait to try.

The big hit was marinated olives from the Chippewa Inn. I drained a jar of pimiento stuffed olives, and added minced garlic, some olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, a little sugar, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and dry vermouth.

I also fixed the cocktail mushrooms recipe from No No’s Supper Club. After blanching a pound of white button mushrooms for a couple minutes, I simmered some vinegar, sugar, garlic salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco and poured it on. These turned out just a little sweet for our taste, but Aunt Pat loved them and took the leftovers home.

The rest of the relishes were sweet cornichons, radishes (served with Lawry’s salt), pickled cherry peppers, and cold pack port wine cheese with crackers.

Sunday Dinner 040818

Our Jewel had t-bone steaks on sale, and they were each more than 3/4ths of a pound and decent thickness. The Weber Genesis was blazing hot – all four burners got it upwards of 600 °F before I killed the sear station burner – so the steaks cooked quickly. After the first two minutes I rotated them 90 degrees for quadrillage, and then flipped them after another two, turning the burners down to medium. Two more minutes and they came off to rest a bit before serving.

I’d also done baking potatoes, using our typical method of coating with olive oil spray, kosher salt and pepper before wrapping in foil to bake. We served them with whipped cottage cheese (another recipe from the Bergin book, courtesy of the White Stag Inn). It’s simply cottage cheese, chives and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt whipped up in a blender. This was another hit around the table, with several folks saying they preferred it to sour cream.

I also grilled some asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 15 minutes, and served it with doctored Knorr’s Hollandaise. Yes, I am still too timid to make the sauce from scratch. Shudder if you must. Claudia made another nice Wulff Salad to round out the meal. The wine was a 2011 Alambrado Malbec from Argentina.

Claudia’s niece, Emily, joined us this week as well, along with our usual crew, the folks and Aunt Pat. After dinner, the two older ladies had Brandy Alexanders and the two younger ones had Pink Squirrels, which are getting to be a fixture here on Sundays. Dessert was a peach pie and DQ soft serve that Pat brought.

This turned out to be a meal where I really needed (and got) a nap afterwards.

I’m still making my way through the supper club book, and look forward to trying some of the mains and sides. We’ll definitely keep this meal’s recipes in our repertoire.

The Spinning Bird

Sunday Dinner – 25 March 2018

Rotisserie Chicken with PotatoesThis week for Sunday Dinner we prepared one of our favorites, Rotisserie Chicken with Drip Pan Potatoes. Aunt Pat was having problems with her knee, and I seem to have come down with the flu, so it wasn’t the most festive meal, but Grammy and Grampy did join us, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food.

I have been cooking on a Weber Kettle for decades, but it’s really only the past few years that I’ve had any clue what I was doing. My education came in the form of a rotisserie attachment that Claudia gave me one year for Christmas. Since I had no idea how to use it, I had to do quite a bit of research. Luck brought me to a guy named Mike Vrobel, and his excellent book Rotisserie Grilling. By learning to cook with the rotisserie, I became a better outdoor cook all around. For instance, I had never used a thermometer to test for doneness before. No wonder I had inconsistent results for thirty years.

Dry brined chicken was one of the first things I learned to prepare on the rotisserie, and, though simple, it remains one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever tasted. Prep involves seasoning the bird, inside and out, with kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic and onion powder and Herbs de Provence. Then we leave it, uncovered, in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight).

The grill is set up with a full chimney of charcoal, distributed in a horseshoe pattern around a foil drip pan. This time around we used a couple chunks of apple wood for smoke. The bird is trussed and skewered, and placed on the rotisserie with the legs pointing toward the closed end of the coals, breast toward the open end. This helps to cook the thighs well while not overcooking the white meat.

Claudia prepared about three pounds of potatoes, cutting them into 8ths, coating with olive oil, salt and pepper, and par cooking in the microwave for five minutes. After the chicken had spun for about half an hour, the potatoes went into the drip pan, soaking up all the nice schmaltz dripping from the bird.

This was a fairly large roaster (about 6 1/2 pounds) so I figured it would need to cook about an hour and a half. I began checking the temperature in the breast after the first hour. By the time the coals were mostly gone, it had still only reached 145 °F, so I placed it on top of the potato pan and moved everything to the Genesis gas grill to finish cooking over indirect medium heat. Once it hit 165, we brought it in and let it rest under a tent of foil.

We served this meal with steamed broccoli and lemon, and Wulff Salad. The wine was a Scott Peterson Rox Chardonnay.

Roast chicken is a Sunday Dinner classic, and you’ll never taste any better than what comes off the rotisserie. I’ve often said that if I had ever opened a restaurant, I’d want to have called it “The Spinning Bird.”