Category Archives: The Nation Has An Appetite

World’s Greatest Caucus – 2022

Sunday May 29, 2022
12:00 p.m.
Pike & Pint
Alexandria, MN

Here’s a post that everyone can respond to in order to keep all responses in one place and accessible.

zooomx.2’s offer:

I am going to close to the public on Sunday (29th) and Monday that weekend. The Twins play at 1pm on Sunday. I would be willing to open up at noon for the caucus. My thoughts would be to have one of my cooks put together a little lunch buffet for the group. I would have a bartender on staff. Food is on me, cocktails would be cash bar. Bring the kids. If its nice weather we will hang out on the patio. If it's inclement weather, me hang out in the bar with the 6 TV's. I can break out the cribbage boards and some cornhole boards.

The Nation Has An Appetite: Soup for Rainy Fall Days

Few things better than a nice warm bowl of soup on a rainy autumn day like today. I recently made a batch of Sweet Potato & Pear Soup, and thought I'd share it here, since it's perfect today (Note: the image is not the right soup, but the color is close enough). I was attracted to the recipe by the simplicity, and I added a few things (namely the ginger) to make it my own.

Ingredients
2 large sweet potatos
2 firm pears
1 small onion
1 inch ginger, grated
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 stick butter
1 cup cream
salt & pepper to taste

Directions
1. Dice the veggies into 1/2 inch pieces
2. Melt the butter and cook the ginger and onion until the onion is translucent, but not carmelized. Add the other veggies & cook for 3 - 5 minutes.
3. Add the stock, bring to boil, then simmer for 1/2 hour, until everything is tender.
4. Blend*
5. Cool somewhat, then slowly mix in cream, salt & pepper to taste.

That's it. So easy, and so good.

*I bought myself an immersion blender with gift cards I'd gotten for my birthday. One of my best birthday gifts ever. Not even a super top-of-the-line one or anything, but it works so well and the whole process is so much easier than transferring to blenders and cleaning up additional equipment. Highly recommend.

Migas para Mis Amig@s

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp tomatillo salsa, Hatch/green chiles, chipotles in adobo, or fresh hot peppers & shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • shredded Asadero and/or Oaxaca cheese and/or queso fresco
  • tortilla chips
  • tortillas (wheat or corn)
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • spices (chile powder, coriander, & cumin suggested)
  • hot sauce(s!)

Optional Additional Toppings

  • cilantro
  • crema/sour cream
  • leftover black or refried beans (reheated)
  • lime juice
  • onion relish
  • queso fresco

Tools

  • 8" skillet (well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick)
  • plancha, crepe pan, or other flat-bottomed cast-iron pan
  • fork or whisk
  • plate
  • silicone spatula
  • small bowl
  • small kitchen towel

Preparation

Crack the eggs into small bowl, then beat or whisk them until the yolks & whites are thoroughly combined. Season the ggs to taste with kosher salt, black pepper, and any combination of spices desired. (I typically use chile powder & cumin, and sometimes include coriander. You could get really interesting and use chaat masala...) Break some tortilla chips into bowl and mix with eggs until the eggs are completely covered; the exact amount is personal preference, and something to dial in over time. Let the tortilla chips soak while moving on with prep. Migas are a great way to use up the chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag, too!

Heat the plancha/crepe pan/cast iron skillet over medium heat. Toast tortillas in the pan, one at a time, on each side, until browned & crisped to personal preference. Keep the toasted tortillas warm in a folded kitchen towel. This step can be completed in tandem with the next three steps below.

Melt butter in the skillet until foaming but not browning. Then, add the salsa or any of the following: Hatch/green chiles, chipotles in adobo, or fresh hot peppers & shallots. Sauté until fragrant and some of the liquid volume is reduced, if using salsa.

Add the eggs to the pan and stir to integrate the cooked salsa or vegetables with the eggs. Swirl the pan over heat as if making an omelette, taking care to expose uncooked egg to heat so it begins to solidify.

Add the cheese to the eggs as if making an omelette, then fold the egg in half over the top. Remove the pan from heat and allow the carryover heat to continue melting the cheese.

Place the tortillas on a plate. Using a silicone spatula, divide the eggs into equal parts for the number of toasted tortillas. I find two eggs to three 8" tortillas works well. Fill the tortillas with any leftover beans pulled from the fridge & reheated, then the eggs. Add hot sauce to taste on top of the eggs; my typical mix is Valentina Black Label, El Yucateco Chile Habanero, and Yellowbird Serrano condiment. Finally, top with any additional cheese, cilantro, crema/sour cream, lime juice, onion relish, and maybe a couple broken-up tortilla chips for extra crunch.

Crack open a cold beverage that augments the flavors.

Enjoy!

Honey Whole Wheat Pain de Mie

Pain de Mie is a French bread baked in a loaf pan with a lid, which results in a rectangular loaf. It's traditionally made with white flour, but I was intrigued by the idea of a version with at least some whole wheat in it.

This bread comes together quite quickly by homemade bread standards, and it's incredibly versatile. It's great still warm from the oven with butter or toasted with peanut butter on top. I've enjoyed it equally well with hummus and with egg salad, and it also formed the base of some mighty fine avocado toast when I found myself with a spare avocado half last week. It would probably also taste good with some sort of meat, if you're into that kind of thing.

What follows is my modified version of a recipe* that will fit a 16" Pullman pan. The original recipe is for a 13" pan, so I increased everything accordingly. (A 13" pan holds 14 cups, and my pan holds 16 cups.)

Equipment notes: You need the special pan to get the right shape, but you do not need a mixer. I much prefer measuring with a scale, as I find it's faster and more accurate.

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups whole milk
5 tablespoons (90 grams) honey
3 1/2 tablespoons (1 3/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups (18 ounces) whole wheat flour
[note: I think this is a touch too much and plan to go down to 17 ounces the next time I make this]
3 cups (14 1/2 ounces) bread flour**
3 1/2 teaspoons (11.5 grams) active dry yeast
cooking spray

Directions
Heat the milk slightly to 105° F). Pour into a large bowl and add the honey and yeast. Let stand for about 5 minutes until the yeast bubbles.

Add the softened butter, salt, whole wheat flour, and bread flour. Mix until combined; they dough will look somewhat shaggy at this stage. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand for 15 minutes.

Dump the dough onto the countertop and knead vigorously by hand until the dough is smooth and springy, about 10 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover again with a towel, and let stand until doubled in volume (approximately 1 hour).

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It has risen, indeed.

When dough has risen, spray the inside of your loaf pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Turn the dough onto a countertop (I find I don't need to flour the countertop, but if your dough seems sticky, by all means put down a little flour). Gently flatten the dough and press it into a rectangle shape just slightly shorter than the long side of your pan.

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Rollin', rollin', rollin'...

Starting at the top edge of the dough (the long side that's farthest from you), begin to roll the dough. After each turn of the dough, seal the seam firmly to prevent large air bubbles from forming as the loaf bakes. When the dough is fully rolled, if it's slightly longer than your pan (mine always is), place your palms on the two sides of the dough log and push in slightly until the dough is the right length.

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All rolled up!

Gently pick up dough and place it in the oiled pan, seam side down. Cover pan with the lid and let it rise until it is about 1 inch from the top of the pan. I find that this takes 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400° F while the dough is rising.

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So this is practically touching the lid, whoops! It still turned out fine.

Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and using pot holders, slide lid off pan and set aside. Return pan to oven for an additional 10 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and cooked through. When loaf is done baking, immediately turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool.

You will be very tempted to cut into your new loaf immediately, but resist the temptation! (Nerd alert: here's a great article explaining why this is.)

Once the bread has cooled to room temperature, slice and enjoy! This recipe makes more than we can eat within a few days, so I typically cut the loaf in half, wrap one half in plastic, put it in a zip-top bag, and freeze until it's needed.

*Mr. NaCl found the recipe online and printed it out, and now I can't find it anywhere online! It looks to originally be from the book Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand by Beatrice Ojakangas. Fun fact: According to the book's description, Ms. Ojakangas is from Duluth!

**The original recipe calls for whole wheat bread flour, which I've never found in stores.

Everything bagel bread

Topping

Bread

  1. For the topping: Combine all ingredients in bowl; set aside.  - or just buy everything but the bagel from Trader Joes.....
2. For the bread: Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with oil spray. Whisk flour and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Fit mixer with dough hook. Add 1¼ cups (10 ounces) water and 2 tablespoons corn syrup. Mix on medium-low speed until dough comes together and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes. Turn off mixer, cover bowl with dish towel or plastic wrap, and let dough stand for 10 minutes.
3. Add salt to dough and knead on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Turn out dough onto clean counter and form into ball by pinching and pulling dough edges under so top is smooth. Flip dough smooth side down.
4. Pat dough into 6-inch square and position parallel to edge of counter. Fold top edge of dough down to midline, pressing to seal. Fold bottom edge of dough up to meet first seam at midline and press to seal. Fold dough in half so top and bottom edges meet; pinch together to seal. Flip dough seam side down and roll into 8-inch log.
5. Transfer to prepared pan, seam side down. Spray top of dough lightly with oil spray, then cover loosely with plastic. Let sit in warm place until dough rises to lip of pan, about 1 hour.
6. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line large plate with clean dish towel. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Once boiling, add baking soda and remaining 2 tablespoons corn syrup.
7. Gently tip dough out of pan onto counter. Lift dough, gently lower into boiling water, and cook for 45 seconds per side. Using spider skimmer or 2 slotted spoons, transfer dough to prepared plate. Fold dish towel over dough gently to wick away excess moisture on top. Let sit until cool enough to handle, about 2 minutes.
8. Respray now-empty pan with oil spray. Add 2 tablespoons topping to pan and shake until bottom and sides of pan are evenly coated. Transfer dough to prepared pan, seam side down, pushing it in at edges to fit if necessary.
9. Using paring knife, make six ¼-inch-deep slashes crosswise along surface of dough, about 1 inch apart. Brush dough with egg, then sprinkle with remaining 4 teaspoons topping. Bake until golden brown and loaf registers at least 200 degrees, about 45 minutes. Let bread cool completely in pan, about 2 hours. Remove from pan, slice, and serve, toasted if desired.
I got this recipe from ATK / Cooks Illustrated. The first time I made this the dough was almost soupy because I didn't really do a great job measuring, and we didn't have a kitchen scale...... The dough was ugly as sin, and flopped all around, and then baked up to perfection. Crazy.
This time the kitchen scale was used and we nailed the correct amount of flour to water and the dough came together exactly as described. We lined the loaf pan with a bit of cheese cloth to help lift the loaf and deposit it into the boiling water.  Worked like a charm. However, I did manage to mangle the shit out of the dough when trying to get it back out of the water. I'll work on a better method next time. Currently in the oven. I'll let you know how it turned out.

Top of the Pots: The Year’s Best Eats

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)

The Categories:

Breakfast
Lunch
Snack
Dinner/Supper
Dessert
Utility

I'll lead off after the jump:
Continue reading Top of the Pots: The Year’s Best Eats

Cajun Pot Roast

So this isn't authentic by any means and, for being Cajun, it isn't particularly spicy. However, I incorporated the holy trinity to give this much more flavor than any Midwestern pot roast I grew up with in the Midwest.

Start with a rub. I used salt, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and allspice. (More of the first half of list, less of the second half of the list.) Apply to a chuck roast. (I didn't remove the fattiest parts of the roast, but probably should have in hindsight.) Put roast in the crock pot.

Next, chop up two onions, a green bell pepper, and three ribs of celery. Spread across the top of the roast. Mince two cloves of garlic and also place on top. Drop in a bay leaf or two. Then, dump in a can of diced tomatoes. Finally, pour in some red wine and beef stock (lift the roast to let some liquid get underneath). Then, let the crock pot work its magic. I had mine on high for 4 hours and then switched to warm for another hour. It was very tender and fell apart pretty easily, but I think I let it cook just a smidge too long (my timing got off a little waiting for the potatoes.

The end product was really good (I ate mine after covering it with copious amounts of the au jus and chopped veggies left behind in the slow cooker), and it shall be made again.

Pork for the win

Doc S says that if I don't take the food porn photos then it didn't happen. He's to blame for this.

If you recall last week (what is time?!?) Dr. Chop told me that she wasn't going to be satisfied with anything form our repertoire wrt dinner and thus the pork wellington was hatched. No photos, but it did happen. Welp, decadent Saturday seems like it's a thing that is going to keep happening my diet be damned.

This week's entry? Pork rollup with cream cheese, hatch green chili, and pistachios wrapped in bacon. Dr. Chop work shopped this one, and I executed. Oh, mama was this good.

First I butterflied a pork tenderloin, and then smashed it into a 1/4 of an inch thick slab of meat product.

Next comes the cream cheese bath - cooks note I had a half a tub of creole cream cheese which is pretty runny and easily smeared across said meat slab

Next comes the hatch green chilis- canned is fine, jarred (look for 505 brand / young guns brand)is better, or freshly roasted which is optimal. I hear from my old man that fresh hatch chilis have hit the super markets in 'perterville so they're likely around the greater MN metros. (I also used a bit of shredded cheddar to bind things in the heats of the grills). I rough chopped about 1/3 cup pistachios and dumped them onto the pig product.

 

Next comes the roll up

 

I hadn't planned to wrap this in bacon, but as it turns out the roll up wasn't as tight as I wanted. I happened to have a half pound of schmidt's meat market bacon on hand so why not?

 

This is the final wrap up (yeah doc, you asked for this - now lie in your bed)

 

I quick smoked this by lighting ~3/4 a chimney of briquets and dumping them when mostly on fire in a pile on one side of the grill. I choked off the heat by leaving the bottom vent wide open and the top vent 1/8 inch open. While the coals were regulating themselves I started roasting some baby red potatoes and carrots. I added a couple good sized chunks of cherry wood and put the pork on the indirect side.

Once the internal temp had hit 140 I moved the whole shooting match over the coals with the lid off to crisp up the bacon.

The final result was nothing short of decadent. Doc, wish you were here brother. Even if you were here there wasn't enough for three....... Okay there was but I was greedy AF.

Pepper’s Summer Watermelon Cocktail

I've always been happy to leave the cocktail mixing to the pros, but while sheltering in place, I've been playing around. My younger son is really into watermelon these days, which made me wonder how watermelon might work in a cocktail. I came across this recipe, and after a little experimentation, I might just have found my favorite summer cocktail. It's not to sweet and has a spicy kick that I can't get enough of. Plus, the watermelon "ice cubes" are genius.

Planning note: you'll need to prepare the infused vodka, simple syrup, and watermelon ice cubes ahead of time. This might seem like more work than you want to do for an easy summer cocktail, but it's really not all that much. If you're making cocktails at home, you likely already have a jar of simple syrup in the fridge. And I've found that the extra watermelon juice is a great addition to fruit smoothies, which I've been making regularly for the boys.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 oz. jalapeno-infused vodka
  • 1 small, seedless watermelon (or a package of cubed watermelon), from which you'll make juice and ice cubes
  • 1 lime, juiced to yield 1 tablespoon juice
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • splash of sparkling water or club soda
  • lime wedge for garnish (if desired)

DIRECTIONS

To make the jalapeno-infused vodka:
Measure your desired amount of vodka into a mason jar. (I've done this with 4 ounces and 8 ounces.) Slice 1 jalapeno pepper into rounds and add to mason jar. Put the lid on and let infuse for 30 minutes. (This gets quite spicy quickly, so you do NOT want to forget about it and let it sit for hours!) Strain out pepper and seeds and return vodka to mason jar. Store at room temperature until ready to use.

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To make the cocktail:
Cut watermelon into cubes approx. 1.5 inches square. For each drink you plan to make, throw four cubes into a ziploc bag and freeze for 2 hours (or longer). These will be your ice cubes. Take about a cup of watermelon cubes and liquefy, using an immersion blender, full-size blender, or food processor. Note: I strained the juice the first time I made it, but I found that by not straining it, I get more watermelon flavor in the drink, which I prefer.

Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz.) watermelon juice, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon simple syrup, and 2 oz. jalapeno-infused vodka. If you have a cocktail shaker, shake it all up and strain into a glass over your watermelon ice cubes. If you're shaker-less like me, stir vigorously and then pour into a glass over your watermelon ice cubes. Add a splash of sparkling water (I probably use about 1 oz.). Garnish with a lime if desired. And enjoy!

The Nation Has An Appetite: The House Special

Though it's occasionally a chore, one silver lining to the whole pandemic situation is that we're basically cooking everything in house. We very occasionally get something from outside, but I think we do that on average maybe once every two weeks. While it's fun to try new things, or at least get creative with ingredients before they go bad, that's still a whole lot of cooking that needs to be done. This naturally means we've all got a few go-to's that we can pull out quickly, or at least easily.

Now, we've got a home with young, picky-ass kids, so our house specials are very boring and basic. Tacos, macaroni, various non-threatening noodle and pasta dishes, but that's pretty much as far as it goes. Japanese curry is about as exotic as it gets with them. Jane and I have been trying all sorts of stuff, but the same namby-pamby retreads are the only sure things around here (yeah, I'm bringing that phrase back).

What dishes are in top rotation in your homes when you need a quick and easy win?