The Nation's Spin-sters seem always to get top billing around here, what with their weekly lists and annual "best of" extravaganzas. But what really matters is not what's on the spindle. It's what's on your platter. I'm going to lay out some contenders, but bring your best, people. Surely, you learned a few kitchen essentials during the 'rona lockdowns.
No pics in this post, Because Reasons. You are welcome to bring some food pr0n to the table (hint, hint: Bootsy Signal)
I'll lead off after the jump:
Breakfast: Brian's Pinhead
Pinhead, or Steel-Cut Oats are a hearty way to start the day and, uh, get things moving. I like to make enough to last for several days and reheat by the serving in the microwave. Toast one cup steel-cut oats in a large-ish pot, with a pinch of salt, over medium heat for a couple of minutes until slightly fragrant. Dump in one cup of water and one cup of milk (I use whole milk). Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer and cover. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup each chopped nuts (toasted is nice; walnuts or almonds go well) and a half-cup of dried raisins or berries (cherries, cranberries, blueberries all work well) or chopped dried fruit (prunes, figs, and apricots all work well; I would avoid mango, as it tends to be too leathery). Continue cooking until the cereal reaches your preferred level of chew. I like it al dente. You may need to add a bit more milk if it gets too stiff.
Lunch: Sammy Claus
I've recently discovered that making sandwich buns is quicker and perhaps more satisfying than baking whole loaves of bread. Which means fresh buns for sammiches.
For the buns: 3 cups unbleached AP or bread flour plus more if needed, 1/8 tsp yeast, 1.5 tsp kosher salt, 2 cups water, 1 cup sourdough starter, 2 tbsp olive oil. Combine the dry ingredients, then add in the wet. Mix thoroughly in your stand mixer or by hand in a big bowl, then knead for about 5 minutes, adding flour by the tbsp as needed so that the dough cleans the sides of the standmixer bowl or is workable on your board. Form into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a towel for insulation. Let stand at room temperature for a couple of hours at least, then refrigerate or store in a cool place overnight. It should more than double in bulk by morning. Punch it down and let it warm up a bit to make it easier to work. With some bench flour to keep the dough from sticking, knead a bit, then roll into a log and cut into about 9-12 portions, each a bit smaller than a fist. Form each into a ball, flatten a bit, and place on a half-sheet pan or jellyroll pan dusted with corn meal. Dust the tops with cornmeal and cover with a tea towel and let proof for about 60-90 minutes. Score an X into the top of each bun. Optional: spritz with water before putting into the oven for a bit more chew. Pop into a 425 degree oven for ten minutes, rotate the pan and give them about ten more. The buns should puffed up, slightly browned and crusty on top and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. Remove buns to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the sandwich: well, this is more meat's territory than mine. But I'd go with pulled pork, crisped up a bit in a pan, topped with a splash of hoisin, pickled carrot, onion and daikon, sliced jalapeno and some rough-chopped cilantro. Good eats, and pretty much guaranteed to put you in a food coma for the afternoon.
Snack: My current go-to is wasabi peas. I bought a 4-lb bag from We Got Nuts on the Bezos Machine. They are sinus-clearers, and will help you wake out of your food coma.
Dinner/Supper: Yule Casserole. It's hard to beat a great plate of lasagna. You'll need a deep pan, a box of lasagna noodles, ~1.5 lbs 80-20 or 90-10 (if you are a health freak) ground beef , 1 lb of fresh italian sausage (I prefer hot, but you do you), a couple of carrots, a couple ribs of celery, a medium onion, about 6-8 mushrooms, 6-8 cloves of garlic, a large can of crushed Italian tomatoes, a lb of ricotta, a lb of mozzarella (whole milk, please), shredded, at least a cup of grated parmesan, some Italian parsley, anise or fennel seed, red pepper flakes (if you want more heat), maybe some fresh basil, and extra tomato sauce or jarred spaghetti sauce (no judgment!), salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. I also use an egg in my ricotta.
First, the meat sauce. This will make a couple of quarts of sauce, which may be just barely enough for a large pan of lasagna. Hence, the extra tomato sauce in reserve. There's veggies in here, so it's healthy. Lightly chop, then in your food processor, pulse, separately, until each is coarsely chopped (or use your damn knife skills if you have lots of time on your hands and need the exercise): the mushrooms (start here, because the others will leave a lot of moisture and make it much harder to pulse the mushrooms), onion and garlic, carrots, and celery. Dump them all into a large pot with a few tbsp of olive oil on medium heat to sweat. Add maybe a half-tsp of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss in the anise/fennel seed while sweating the veg. You could also add a tsp or so of dried oregano if that floats your boat. When the veg is somewhat softened and the onion a bit translucent, add the meats. Break them up and stir 'em around to brown. Once the meats are incorporated and no longer raw, dump in the can of crushed tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. There will be some fat. Stir it in. Fat is flavor. Ignore your spouse if she complains about fat. The pasta will soak it up and it won't be greasy. Add a tbsp or so of chopped parsley and, if you have it, chopped or chiffonaded fresh basil and stir them in at this stage. Keep warm.
In another bowl, combine the ricotta, the egg, a few grind of pepper, and a healthy bit of nutmeg, freshly grated (don't you dare use pre-ground crap!). I like to add a tbsp or so of the chopped parsley as well. In separate bowls, have at the ready your shredded mozzarella (or sliced fresh mozz if you are all fancy) and grated parmesan.
In lots of well-salted water, boil the lasagna sheets, a few at a time, for about 4-5 minutes. You do them in batches so that you can keep them from sticking together. Lay them out on an oiled sheet pan. Try not to overlap them or they might stick together.
Assemble: oil or butter the bottom and sides of your pan, then ladle in a little bit of reserved tomato sauce. Now put down a layer of lasagna noodles, then a layer of ricotta, then a layer of meat sauce, then mozzarella, and finally a sprinkling of parmesan. Eyeball your ingredients, as you want at least three layers of everything. You are looking for maybe a quarter- to half-inch of ricotta, 1/2- to 3/4 inch meat sauce per layer, and a lighter (but still generous) touch on the mozz and parmesan. It's the holidays, man. Repeat with noodle, ricotta, etc., layers, until the pan is almost full. Some (most) recipes say to omit the ricotta for the top layer, but I don't think it really matters. Top with plenty of cheese. Place on a sheet pan and into a 400-425 degree oven and bake for about 25 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serve with a nice glass of wine and a salad. I think this is actually better the next day, reheated, because everything really sets and it's easier to cut.
Dessert: well, dessert's really not my territory at all. PEPPER!!!
Utility: CHILLaquiles. This is the lazy-man version, but it's still great. Fry some leftover crockpot pulled pork until crispy (like carnitas), then dump in a large can of green enchilada sauce (I like Las Palmas or La Victoria, but there are other good ones as well). Stir and heat to bubbly, let reduce slightly. Ladle generously over your favorite tortilla strips or chips. Top with grated cheese, a fried egg, maybe some avocado and cilantro, and some hot sauce. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Also works with shredded chicken instead of the pork. A GREAT use for Instant Pot chicken chile verde.
What's on your list?