Category Archives: The Nation Has An Appetite

French Onion Soup, the easy(ish) way.

As I said last night I'm not really a soup kind of person. Though, now that I think about it I actually have become more of a soup person over the years. We make a green chili stew when it's not hotter'n the blazes - which here is like 2 months of the year - and I'll order pho over bun every day ... and we've been making this white bean and corn soup ... and we've been making crab and corn bisque ... I'm a soup guy? That doesn't line up with my self image. anywho ...

This is lifted from America's Test Kitchen

4lbs onion - yeah, seems like a lot ... it isn't
3 tbs butter cut into three slices
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 cups of water plus additional for deglazing
4 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of beef broth - I used better than broth - its my secret weapon for beefy magic flavor
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
crusty baguette
shredded gruyere

Method:
Cut onions in half through the roots, and slice pole to pole in 1/4 inch slices. Preheat oven to 400˚. Put onions into a well oiled dutch oven, top with butter and a 1/4 tsp salt. Put dutch oven in oven covered for an hour. (their method has you then take the pot out of the oven and stir the onions, replace the pot in the oven with the lid cracked for another 1.5 to 1.75 hours- I just cranked up the heat on the burner and stirred the onions to keep them from burning. You're looking for the liquid to evaporate and for the pot to run dry. When a dark crust begins to form on the bottom of the pan add a quarter cup of water to deglaze the pan. Continue to run the pot dry several times until the onions are dark brown - but not burnt! - and are beginning to break apart. the last time you deglaze the pot use the 1/2 cup of dry sherry and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add the water, stock beef broth (or better than broth), bay leaf, and thyme stir to combine, and then bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Slice the baguette into thick slices and bake dry in the oven - drying these out will improve the crunchy texture of the crust when they're submerged into the soup - once dry top with shredded gruyere and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve in a deep bowl with cheesy bread dunked into the bowl.

This was phenomenal. The hardest part is standing over the pot making sure the onions don't burn.

Brown Bag Nation

Let’s talk about lunch. Yes, you might just be eating breakfast right now, either at home, or at work, or in your car (I hope not). Bear with me.

I love to eat from the food carts on the pedestrian mall outside my institution's main library. Where else can I get loaded beef & plantain arepas, ayam bakar in a luscious peanut sauce (extra sambal kecap, please) with acar, sticky gua bao, fresh fried falafel, and other decadent morsels within a twenty-yard radius? My wallet doesn't love it quite the same way. Since I apparently have horrible career management skills, that doesn't appear likely to change anytime soon.

So, since I'm likely to get hungry sometime between 0930 and 1630, I bring food from my domicile to my roboticile — almost always supper leftovers from the previous night or two.

For years, I've packed my lunch in a small (approximately 2 cup) Pyrex dish & reusable storage bags, but recently I've felt like trying something new, ideally more compact or space-efficient. Part of my motivation is that the Poissonnier has joined Mrs. Hayes & I as a public transit companion. Part of it is the feeling that I keep rolling the dice with the Pyrex, hoping it won't leak. (I've had the occasional dribbles, but nothing catastrophic.)

I've looked at the various Zojirushi Bento products. They seem pretty nifty, but potentially cumbersome. (I suspect they won’t fit in my Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.) I don’t need the thermal capabilities often, but absolutely require spill-proof storage. The Wirecutter likes insulated lunch bags, which doesn't solve the problem of what to put in that bag; also, I don't want to carry a second bag.

Maybe I missed something, but I don't remember us discussing this before. So, I'm curious — how do you transport your vittles from your coolerator to the place where you spend most of your day reading the WGOM? And, more importantly, what [sniff sniff] do you like to pack?

Curry Chicken Pot Pie

By popular demand, here is an improvised version of curry chicken pot pie.

The good doctor requested fall food because the outside air temp dropped below boiling. We had a curry in London that resembled super smooth butternut squash soup with chicken bits, and decided that we could make that happen at home. After several attempts we discovered that we were missing some fat source be it cream / butter / ???. We shelved the recipe in favor of a Korma recipe that is always solid only to return to the idea when the weather turned cool(ish). To do this you'll need:

cubed butternut squash
cubed sweet potato
diced carrots
peas
a toe of garlic smashed
a small hand full of raisins
diced chicken parts (we used breasts, though thighs would def. amp up the flavor values)
curry seasoning (make your own if you feel sassy)
nutmeg
a bay leaf
salt and pepper
pie crust (if you make your own then you win) (trader joes is pretty alright, pilsbury is more than alright)
pyrex or similar oven safe bowls (though some consumer groups say that pyrex aint what it used to be... so be careful when dealing with wild temp swings and glass cookware)

The ratios of this are really not hard math, I used a bag of butternut squash cubes from trader joes (because lazy), 4 carrots, two small sweet potatoes from my garden. I roasted half the veg to roast, and half the veg for the sauce. I ended up with thee of the 2 cup pyrex individual pot pies. I used the left over crust to make a flower top for decorative / more pie crust goodness

Method:

I roasted half the sweet potato and butternut squash along with the carrots to add flavor / texture dimension to the final product. I tossed the veg with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and curry powder prior to roasting in a 450 degree oven. I removed the veg when brown / starting to blacken on the edges (about 25 minutes). I dumped a handful plus of frozen peas onto the roasting pan after I removed it from the oven (both arrests the cooking of the veg and thaws the peas). While the veg is roasting I add the remaining butternut squash and sweet potato (you can also add some carrot / parsnips) to a 2 quart sauce pan with just enough water to cover, plus salt and pepper and a dose of curry seasoning, and bring to a roiling boil. Boil this mixture until the veg falls apart, and mash in the pan. At this point the liquid in the pan should be fairly runny. Add the diced chicken parts to the pan with another dose of curry seasoning, the bay leaf, a pinch of nutmeg (my secret weapon...) and the smashed garlic toe. Simmer until the chicken in cooked through and the sauce is thickened to your desired taste. Add the roasted veg + peas + a handful of raisins to the pot and simmer out any additional liquid. As this happens have your oven preheated to 425 (YMMV). Portion out your sauce / chicken / veg mix into your baking dish(s), and cut your pie crusts to hang over the edges. Cut some vents and bake until the crust is golden brown. (an egg wash will help with browning, but isn't necessary for flavors). Basically this is a boiler plate for seasoned chicken pot pie with no dairy. You could use (gasp) tofu, ginger, lemongrass, green thai curry etc etc etc etc as flavor enhancers.

you're welcome.

Monster-esque Cookies

I had these cookies for the first time at a Halloween party a long time ago, and therefore I always associate them with Halloween. I don't know for sure exactly what elements are required for a true monster cookie, but these are at least a close relative of monster cookies. While there's no small amount of sugar in these, they somehow don't taste overly sweet, which I appreciate.

1 cup (8 oz.) butter, softened
1 cup (9.5 oz.) natural peanut butter
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) brown sugar
1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups (7 oz.) old-fashioned oats*
1 1/2 cups (7 7/8 oz.) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 oz. chocolate chips**
2 cups M&M's
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional; I didn't use them)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer (or sturdy electric hand mixer and a large bowl), cream butter and sugars for approximately 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Add eggs and vanilla, mixing for about 1 minute.

Add oats, flour, and baking soda. Mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Stir in chocolate chips, M&M's, and walnuts (if using).

Use a cookie scoop, spoon, or your hands to form dough into 1.5-inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating sheets on top and bottom racks halfway through. When done, the tops of the cookies should be just beginning to brown. Remove cookies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight plastic container or ziplock bag for up to 1 week.

*The recipe calls for quick-cooking oats, but I didn't have any, and I thought the cookies turned out great with old-fashioned oats.
**I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips because I love them, but any variety will do.

Recipe source: a lovely woman named Amy who may or may not have originally gotten the recipe from a Martha Stewart magazine

The Nation Has An Appetite: What To Do With Too Much Zucchini

The other day I posted a couple of links to baked zucchini recipes (Bread and Blueberry Lemon Cake (my recommendation on the cake is to find a slightly less/more lemony sweet buttercream recipe, and also to add some lemon into the batter if you like lemon)). You should make those if you have lots of zucchini, and I understand the bread freezes fairly well too.

Today I wanted to share another favorite, and I thought I'd turn it into content here, given our recent conversations about generating more and maybe some new Citizens. Anyway, I made it last night, and it turned out perfect. It's quick, easy, and satisfying. Can't beat that.

Ingredients
2 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/2" - 1" pieces
1 medium onion, chopped in 1" pieces
Pepperoni slices
Mozzarella or similar cheese
Your favorite marinara sauce
Basil leaves
Good hot dog/brat buns
Salt, Pepper, Oregano
2 tablespoons butter (or less)

Directions
1. Heat zucchini and onion in butter until cooked through, seasoning with salt, pepper, and oregano.

2. Layer a row of pepperoni and another of basil into the buns.

3. Spoon in the cooked zucchini and top with marina and cheese.

4. Broil until cheese is melted/browning.

It's that easy. So much yum.

Burrito Bowl-ish

I don't know quite how to say this, guys. I'm obsessed with meat's beans. I put this meal together to showcase the beans . . . and also so that I'll now have an easy way to find the recipe anytime I need it.

INGREDIENTS
Quick Pickled Red Cabbage:
2 cups sliced red cabbage
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Meat's Black Beans:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock

Greens:
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups spinach, kale, or other greens, washed and spun in a salad spinner (or otherwise mostly dried)

Other:

cooked brown rice
avocado, sliced or cubed
cilantro
shredded cheddar cheese
salsa
sour cream
tortilla chips
(anything you want, really)

DIRECTIONS
To make quick pickled red cabbage:
Pack a 2-cup mason jar (or other heat-proof container) with the cabbage and peppercorns.

In a small saucepan, mix water, rice vinegar, honey, and salt. Heat and stir until the salt and honey dissolve. Pour hot liquid over the cabbage, making sure all of it is submerged. Seal and allow to sit at room temperature until the brine cools slightly and the jar is warm to the touch but not hot. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill. (Keeps for 2 weeks.)

To make meat's black beans:
Measure olive oil into a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Bloom cumin, chili powder, freshly ground black pepper, and smoked paprika in oil (about 1 minute). Add minced onion and garlic and saute until browned. (At this point, everything will smell insanely good.) Add black beans and stock. Let come to a gentle boil and cook uncovered until liquid is reduced to a paste.

To make greens:
In a skillet, saute garlic in olive oil. Add greens and cover until wilted, about 5 minutes.

To assemble your bowl of deliciousness:
Start with a base of brown rice. Add cabbage, beans, greens, avocado, cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, tortilla chips, or whatever floats your boat. As lovely as it looks after assembly, I prefer to mix together everything except the chips before devouring it. But really, eat it however you want.

Cabbage recipe modified from Food for My Family.
General inspiration from Joy the Baker.

Smoking Char

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Ordered these fine fellows (Arctic Char) from Coastal SeaFoods on Snelling in St. Paul, approx 3 lbs each.  Originally I was going to get Lake Trout but they can be iffy to get fresh.

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Soaked them in a brine (salt and brown sugar) for 6'ish hours.

fullsizerender-3Then on to the smoker with Alder chips soaked for about 15 minutes.

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Turned the smoker on to 200F and let them cook for about 3 hours (turned up the temps slightly for the last 1/2 hr.  Meanwhile me and the brothers were chainsawing trees in the yard.  Awesome Alder smell from the smoker.  Can't get too far away as the chips sometimes catch fire and need to be doused.

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Tender, moist, and wonderful flavor.  Char (Salvelinus alpinus) is a delicate, fatty fish - smoking is a great way to make it.

 

The Cruciferousing

I can't believe I never did a sauerkraut post. Really? Anyway, with my parents in town again for the winter, I've decided to make a new batch of sauerkraut. Lucky you.
Making sauerkraut is about as simple and foolproof as kitchen fermentation gets. You need a head of cabbage, shredded, some kosher salt, a clean dowel or some other implement for pounding the kraut into the fermentation vessel, and a fermentation vessel. I'm using a quart mason jar.
Continue reading The Cruciferousing